MUSIC The Topp Twins
TelstraClear Festival Club, Sunday, February 26, 2012.
The music and comedy of Huntly-born twins Jools and Lynda Topp is something I greatly admire - unless I happen to be confronted with it as a live show. Then it's a case of enduring it.
I want to applaud them for longevity, and not just the overly long running time of their show; I do actually mean for eking out a living, for staying committed to the roles they inhabit.
There is much to celebrate about The Topp Twins of course. National treasures now - and if you didn't already know it, 2009's documentary film certainly made the announcement very clear.
But theirs is a base humour and as they've been performing for around 30 years now that means that several of their jokes are now . . . well, 30 years old as well.
The show begins with the Camp Leader and Camp Mother characters. Camp Leader's insane giggle-cackle seems to cover over any missed jokes. Later in the show when the twins play male characters Ken and Ken, some of the humour seems to struggle - it's an uneasy fit playing up (and playing against) stereotypes while pushing a political angle.
At times the twins nail it, made all the more subversive given the characters they're playing. But I'm left wondering the same thing I always ponder at Topp Twins shows: is the comedy element there to justify the fact that the same rudimentary guitar strum haunts every song or is the music there to suggest there's some passion given all the hokey, obvious jokes? It's always hard to know. And we're unlikely to ever get a straight answer.
Eventually though we do get Jools and Lynda Topp, no characters, just the twins. Ironic perhaps but they seem least comfortable playing themselves. There's no denying the incredible sound their voices make together. It's pure country harmony singing - one voice singing Kiwi songs, one voice campaigning and battling, opposing global thinking, urging people to think and act locally, to be the little battler and support fellow battlers.
Of course, whether you like that voice - much like the crude, cheap humour that pokes its tongue out far too often to interrupt - is a matter of taste.
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- The Dominion Post