Photo courtesy of the Pabst
Stephen Lynch is a modern day renaissance man. The accomplished stand-up comic, and Tony Award-nominated actor also fancies himself a musician more than anything else. In fact, the troubadour has released four albums, including his latest, Lion, which came out last week. But Sunday night’s Turner Hall show, Lynch and a skilled cast of accompanying talent treated a jam-packed crowd to an evening of explicit entertainment that combined great music, a treasure trove of crude humor and even a bit of prepared stage-patter to tie it all together.
Coming out to uproarious applause from the passionate – borderline rude – crowd, Lynch took a seat behind a keyboard and, in doing so, hit himself in the eye with a nearby microphone. “I already know this show is going to suck,” he said mid-wince. Fortunately, he was wrong, as he set the tone for the next two hours of hilarious lyrics draped in beautiful music with goofy new ballad “Lorelei.”
Stepping away from the ocular danger of the keyboard once and for all, Lynch picked up his acoustic guitar and took a seat at a stool on the other end of the stage, joined by his three backing musicians for some 15 more scathing songs that touched on topics like bad tattoos, body hair, veganism, Phil Collins and sex – lots of sex.
A less-than-genuine ode to Juggalos was accompanied by a slideshow of the ICP faithful in unflattering poses, some of which proved too much from Turner Hall, as Lynch’s light strumming was blanketed with a heft of groans. A similar sound of uncomfortable laughter came with a trio of faux diary entries from Anne Frank, Rihanna and Christopher Reeve that were transposed to music.
Seeming to sense the tension, Lynch and co. eased up a bit, and squeezed in a few fan favorites like Jesus brother perspective piece, “Craig” and new single “Lion.” Lynch’s supporting cast certainly added to the show, both in terms of providing gorgeous harmonies and expertly played banjo, mandolin, harmonica and kazoo, as well as matching the comedic acting chops of the main attraction. Burley and bearded multi-instrumentalist Charlie and Lynch’s Broadway co-star Rod read off-color lines from a script Lynch was apparently working on. Later, Charlie gave his boss a bathroom break, as he brought the audience to gag-interrupted laughter with a “Rag-time” song about a monthly women’s issue.
However, Lynch took center stage with his undeniable vocal range, his unique song topics and stage presence throughout. After coming out for an encore, Lynch and his backers combined for the melodic-yet-malicious “Tennessee” that tears the southern state apart after the song’s beautiful outset. While too raunchy to be taken seriously as a musician, and too musical to earn respect from some of his comedic brethren, Lynch’s knack for both mediums puts him in a class all his own, a class a few hundred Milwaukeeans were glad they attended.