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Spinal Tap is back -- and unplugged

March 2, 2009 |  5:09 pm

A quarter-century after the film “This Is Spinal Tap” catapulted a certain hapless, fictional heavy-metal group into the annals of rock music history, its three founding members will embark on a six-week, 30-city North American tour minus costumes, wailing electric guitars and even their signature 18-inch Stonehenge set.

Pop satirists Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer will play “Unwigged & Unplugged,” as they've dubbed the tour that starts April 17 in Vancouver and stops in Los Angeles on April 26 at the Wiltern.

Besides revamping the Spinal Tap material -- the volume famously cranked to 11 on their custom amps -- for an acoustic trio, the threesome will be including material from their more recent musical spoof about the folk music scene, “A Mighty Wind.”

"We've never gone out as ourselves," Shearer said Monday from the stage of the House of Blues in West Hollywood, where he was accompanied by Guest and McKean at a news conference unveiling the tour. "So we've been holding lots of meetings trying to figure out who we are."

The musicians opened the event with a medley and segued from such Spinal Tap material as "Hell Hole" and "Sex Farm" to "Celtic Blues," one of the songs created by "A Mighty Wind's" faux-folk group, the Folksmen.

The tour, McKean quipped, will involve "No smoke, and just one mirror backstage."
Asked whether the nation's economic crisis precipitated the stripped-down outing, Shearer said, "No -- but it sure helped."

As part of activities marking the 25th anniversary of the movie, Shearer said the group was working on studio versions of the original songs they wrote but never formally recorded, for an album that's expected to be released in May.

Just how loud will they be able to crank the music on this tour without the Marshall stacks behind them?

"8½," McKean said. "It worked for Fellini."

-Randy Lewis