• Bret McKenzie announces Songs Without Jokes show at Toitoi

Bret McKenzie announces Songs Without Jokes show at Toitoi

Bret McKenzie — whom you know from such modern musical treasures as comedy duo Flight of the Conchords, the Muppets movie reboots and other ace family-friendly soundtracks, Lord of the Rings fan blogs, guest songs for The Simpsons, cycling around the streets of Wellington, and more — has a new solo record coming out filled with songs which are not comedy songs!

More on that later, because today not only signals new music is on the horizon, but we (we as in Aotearoa, New Zealand) are also being treated to a national bloody tour from Bret, his piano, his microphone and his nine-piece band. And that tour is set to grace Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events Centre’s Opera House stage on September 13.

Toitoi Kaiwhakahaere Ratonga Whakaari - Presenter Services Manager Glen Pickering says the Toitoi team is delighted to bring the Oscar-winning musician to Hawke’s Bay.

“Toitoi has a long history of hosting international superstars and iconic New Zealanders on our Opera House stage and Bret MacKenzie is both,” Mr Pickering says.

“After two challenging years, Bret McKenzie is the perfect tonic to bring joy and laughter to our Hastings community.”

In what promises to be a night that warms the cockles of your heart, McKenzie and band will play the length of Aotearoa this September in some of our most iconic and esteemed venues, including our very own Toitoi.

It’s not a comedy tour, but you will smile, you might even laugh in places, that’s ok - he’s a funny guy. The tour is in celebration of McKenzie’s new album Songs Without Jokes, which comes out Friday, August 26. The clue is in the title really, isn’t it?

Of the album, McKenzie says:

“Post-Conchords, I’d been working on songs for the Muppets films, and during a session, I had the thought that it would be fun someday to work on some songs that weren’t for someone else, that doesn’t have to tell a story or be funny or continue the narrative plot, checking all the boxes for the character in the movie.

“I thought it’d be fun to do a record like that, something different. It started as kind of a side project; it’s not like I’m trying to start a massive solo career or change the world with music. But now it’s turned into a full record and therefore requires quite a bit of time. It turns out it’s quite a big job, putting out a record. Why did no one try to stop me?”

Written throughout 2019 between Los Angeles and Wellington, McKenzie was inspired by the path of the Harry Nilssons, the Randy Newmans, and Steely Dans of the world. In fact, the album was recorded in LA with an ‘older generation’ of session musicians, including ‘Dean’ the real-life guitarist from Steely Dan.

While the album may be free of traditional punch lines, it doesn’t lack a sense of humour. It showcases a new stage of McKenzie’s career, to be sure, but one that isn’t so far removed from his past work and true artistic self.

“I’m becoming way more comfortable in my own skin with songs that are a bit more personal. At first, I felt a little naked singing a song about how I’m not sure what to do with my life — compared to writing for f*****g Kermit the Frog — but I’m getting more comfortable now with the heartfelt. Instead of going for a laugh you’re creating these cool little moments,” he says.

“I love comedy songs but I don’t put a comedy record on while hanging out; I don’t drive around listening to stand-up, I listen to regular music. So, it feels right to finally make a record of music I might want to listen to.”

So, there we have it, folks. A musical show from the one and only Bret McKenzie, complete with big band (who are all shit-hot musicians in their own right). These shows will be special, trust the intrigue you’re feeling and get in quick. 

  • Bret McKenzie: Songs Without Jokes is on Tuesday, September 13, at 8pm in the Toitoi Opera House. Tickets go on sale to the general public next Friday, May 20, and are from $69.90 (plus booking fees). See www.toitoivenues.co.nz to book, or head to the Toitoi Box Office on the corner of Eastbourne and Hastings Sts.