High Noon at the Flynn | Solid State

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

High Noon at the Flynn

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 2:08 PM

Did anybody else catch The Spaghetti Western Orchestra at the Flynn last night? If not, you missed one hell of a show.

For the uninitiated, SWO is essentially a musical theater tribute — but don't hold that doubly dubious phrase against them — to the music of the great Ennio Morricone, comprised of five Australian musicians, each of whom have backgrounds in theater and comedy. Though he has contributed to more than 300 projects in various types of media, the Italian composer is best known for penning the soundtracks to filmmaker — and fellow Italian — Sergio Leone's "spaghetti westerns." In particular, Morricone's theme for The Good, The Bad & The Ugly has pretty much much become synonymous with the entire western genre. Whistle it right now and see if you don't immediately picture a young, serape-clad Clint Eastwood chomping on a cigar with six-shooters blazing . . . see what I mean?

So to summarize, we've got a group of Australians paying tribute to an Italian who wrote music for films largely shot in Spain that revolutionized a definitively American genre — albeit one that owes significant debts to Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Does anyone else feel a bar joke coming on?

Moving back stateside, last night's show — in front of a roughly three-quarters full room of middle-class, middle-aged Vermonters — was just about the rootin'-est, tootin'-est hootenanny I've seen at the Flynn since . . . geez. I'm not even sure. Feist maybe?

Employing all manner of sonic doohickeys from drums and orchestral percussion to keyboards and double-bass to a treasure chest of noisemakers that would make Prairie Home Companion sound effects whiz Fred Newman blush — tuned beer bottles, a nifty tape loop device and, of course, a box of Corn Flakes, etc. — the group tore through some of the best known tunes (even if you don't know you that know them) from the voluminous Morricone catalog. SWO infuses the maestro's music with sight and sound gags in much the same campy style as the Leone's films. As a huge fan of spaghetti westerns — and westerns, in general — I was definitely in my element. I still sorta feel like dramatically shooting someone, in fact.

There were numerous highlights throughout the evening. But I think my favorite moment — aside from the crowd screaming along with the "AIEEAIEEAH!" part from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, of course — was the group's rendition of "The Ballad of Hank McCain," which Morricone originally wrote as an instrumental, but was later given lyrics by songwriter John Zorn. SWO altered Zorn's words slightly and sent the crowd — myself included — tearing through their program notes to see if the song was legit. It was, sort of. Below are some of the original lyrics. See if you can guess which word they replaced with "McCain."

No one knows better than the king
Life's a filthy dirty game
Very very hard to win

No one knows better than the king
How to disregard the pain
Never, never let it in

No one knows better than the king
That an angry man goes blind
Knocks his head against the wall

No one knows better than the king
How it hurts a man to fight
That he's human after all

No one knows better than the king
What a desperate man may do
When it gets too hard to bear

No one knows better than the king
How to spit on the taboos
As they thought he'd never dare

No one knew better than the king
Just how bitter it would be
To be beaten after all

No one knew better than the king
They're the ones who fix the game
They're the ones with loaded dice

No one knew better than the king
That they'd get him all the same
And they made him pay the price

Eerie, right?

Anyway, the show was an absolute blast. And for those who couldn't make it, here's a clip of what you missed.


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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox.

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