The friend with whom I saw Kiki & Herb on Sat., Dec. 17, at the Moore Theatre overheard the following exchange during intermission, between a couple who appeared to be on their first date:
MAN: [eagerly] What do you think of the show?
WOMAN: I don’t think it’s funny. At all.
Her loss, especially considering Kiki’s first words of the duo’s encore: “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. If I could love, I would love you all.” They do try—after all, as Kiki told us near the beginning, “Between the AIDS and the Alzheimer’s, we don’t have a fan left over 40.” They’re exaggerating, of course—Kiki & Herb’s primary audience outside of San Francisco and New York, the duo’s original homes, tends to be in its 30s or younger. That’s certainly the demographic Justin Bond (the singer who plays Kiki in drag) and Kenny Mellman (the pianist who plays Herb) aim for most acutely with their wide-ranging songbook, which is heavy on current alt-rock arranged for lounge duo.
Not much from the “farewell” show at New York’s Carnegie Hall that Evolver released last February as Kiki & Herb Will Die for You was repeated here; instead, holiday cheer abounded, like curdled eggnog. Herb shouted a medley of “The Little Drummer Boy” and the Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” while Kiki wordlessly sat down and pointedly smoked a newly-forbidden-by-the-electorate cigarette. K&H’s old medley of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” “Suicide Is Painless,” and “Miss World” was dusted off; the second set opened with “Frosty the Snowman,” with Kiki hilariously and inappropriately shaking her stuff during the “thumpety-thump-thump” lyric.
Then there was an extended monologue in which Kiki asked us to “imagine you’re a teenage girl, Christmas rolls around, and you find yourself pregnant and say, ‘I didn’t do anything. . . . I’m pregnant by God—and I dare you to prove me wrong.” The duo then began “What Child Is This?” only to go straight into Mary J. Blige’s “Deep Inside” (“Deep inside, I wish that you could see/That I’m just plain ol’ Mary,” get it?) and Tori Amos’ “Crucify.” Kiki’s rasping out of Blige’s background singers’ “I’m just Mary, just Mary, just Mary” was particularly mean-spirited and inspired, but it was more or less a rehearsal for her Exorcist-style hissing of Amos’ “Give me chay-ay-ay-ay-aaange.”
The most surreal musical juxtapositions came at the end. After an extended, charged monologue about Hurricane Katrina and Bush’s general incompetence (“There’s nothing illegal about wishing the president would kill himself“), Kiki & Herb began the Scissor Sisters’ “Take Your Mama” before winding it into a New Orleans mini-tribute that included Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” “When the Saints Come Marching In,” and “House of the Rising Sun.” Then, for the final encore, Kiki gave an impassioned reading to a horribly adolescent song (sample lyric: “I carve your name across my eyelids”). A friend later informed me it was by the Arcade Fire, a band I loathe. But in Kiki & Herb’s hands, the song became a gift.