Concert Review: Richard Cheese @ The Phoenix, Toronto 7/26/09

Lounge music… For most of us under the age of 60, it’s a term that yields cringing or endless mockery. We think of Carlton dancing to ‘It’s Not Unusual’ or Barry Manilow crooning away (which, in turn, reminds me of The Breakfast Club – RIP John Hughes). Lounge songs are ‘standards’, songs that any singer schlepping in some jazzy little bar should be able to deliver on request.

But for those of us who hit puberty in the late 80s to early 90s, we have our own set of classics, or ‘standards’, depending on your genre of choice: Smells Like Teen Spirit, anyone? Baby Got Back? Friends In Low Places (if you like to get drunk to rowdy country)? Closer (or, as the casual fans call it, ‘that Fuck You Like An Animal song?’). Now what if someone out there decided to utilize his ability to croon like a lounge singer and invent new standards for that genre – or, more specifically, take the songs of today and evolve them to their eventual lounge song state?

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome Richard Cheese to the stage.

Your first exposures to Dick, if you have any, would likely have been appearances on Jimmy Kimmel or the brilliant montage in the Dawn of the Dead remake set to Richard’s reworking of Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness. The latter was my first encounter with the hilarity that Richard delivers with his band, Lounge Against The Machine. Several albums later, Richard has developed a cult following of lounge afficionados who are as amused as he by swankily singing such lyrical masterpieces as Gin and Juice and Crazy Bitch. Richard’s even taken on an entire album’s worth of TV show themes (Spongebob Squarepants, anyone?).

Needless to say, being someone with a crass sense of humour and disgusting range of music on her iTunes, I simply had to see what was announced as Lounge Against The Machine’s final tour.

I can’t attest to full accuracy of the setlist due to laughter and the frequent instrumental interludes during tuxedo jacket changes(!), but you’ll be able to appreciate the diversity of the material from what I did manage to capture. Richard Cheese delivers a long set that plays out like a musical comedy routine, complete with excellent repartee with the inevitable hecklers and drunks, as well as shameless flirting with the female audience. For the tour, I’d selected a standing room only ticket and was pleased when Richard fetched us from behind the seated area and allowed us to flank the sides of the chairs, leaving me standing beside the second row for the night. The show felt very intimate, with plenty of crowd interaction as Richard frequently ran the aisles, started a chorus line kick during Down With The Sickness and walked along the bar. I’ve never laughed so hard at a concert in my life.

What’s better? Richard actually stayed and met each and every fan who waited, signing autographs and posing for photos. In person, Richard Cheese is a friendly man, with a warm hug and handshake and a genuine appreciation for your praise and time.

Highlights of the set were many, but I’d have to say my favourite songs were Brass Monkey (with Beastie Boys medley), Don’t Cha (including Bob Dylan and Bjork’s versions), Just Dance blended into Sunday Bloody Sunday and, of course, Down With The Sickness.

Richard Cheese is still on tour, and his new live disc Viva La Vodka is stellar!

    SETLIST

Closer (Nine Inch Nails)
Shake Dat Ass (Mystikal)
Another Brick In The Wall Pt 2 (Pink Floyd)
Brass Monkey/Beastie Boys Medley
Three’s Company theme
Don’t Cha (The Pussycat Dolls)
Crazy Bitch (Buckcherry)
Chop Suey (System of a Down)
Airbag (Radiohead)
Gin and Juice (Snoop Dogg)
(You Shook Me) All Night Long (AC/DC)
Just Dance (Lady Gaga) → Sunday Bloody Sunday (U2)
Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice)
Yakety Yak (This was brief and a ‘screw you’ to a heckler)
Five Dollar Foot Long (Subway commercial)
Eye of the Tiger (interlude)
99 Luftballons (Nena)
Me So Horny (2 Live Crew)
Buddy Holly (Weezer)
SCTV ‘Great White North’
Spongebob Squarepants theme
Hello (Lionel Richie)
Billie Jean (Michael Jackson)
Baby Got Back (Sir Mix-A-Lot)
My Neck, My Back (Khia)
Imperial March
Doing Time (Sublime)
Down With The Sickness (Disturbed)
Creep (Radiohead)

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