Neal Medlyn / The Neal Medlyn Experience Live!
9.5.08 at The Works
2008 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Kenneth Aaron
All Rights Reserved, PICA
Posted by Dusty Hoesly
A man walks on stage wearing a gaudy black wig, sequined halter top, shorts (with silver lamé hot pants underneath), and large red glasses. He looks like the whitest account you’ve ever seen on a karaoke bender. Two dancers flank him as he sweats into Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love,” delivering a frantic, loose-nipple-jiggling performance. Enthusiasm replaces rhythm and vocal talent. The crowd goes wild. Audio from Beyoncé’s 2007 concert DVD serves as the musical accompaniment, complete with her vocal soundtrack, which Medlyn sings over. This is raucous nerd chic.

The Neal Medlyn Experience Live! is a spectacle based on a spectacle. Beyoncé is a manufactured superstar produced for mass consumption, and Medlyn capitalizes on this by embracing the pop sensibility of these songs while performing them using rudimentary choreography and amateurish singing, substituting manic energy for polished sheen. His performance comes off like the private gyrations of a YouTube starlet, or Neal Medlyn Gone Wild. Here he ridicules the ridiculous.
The audience seems to love it. Many sing along or bounce with him. But for me, the set’s first fifteen minutes establish the theme and the rest is “more of the same.” A nerdy white man is re-imagining a sexy black woman, running the audience into a lather. As it progresses, and as he works through hits by other artists such as Gnarls Barkley, Soulja Boy, and Rihanna, Medlyn’s performance becomes an exercise in stamina. The first fifteen minutes repeat themselves with costume changes. As my friend said, it became an atmosphere; it lost its spark and we just felt the humidity without the electricity.
When he invites two girls to star as the rest of Destiny’s Child for “Survivor,” he shows us that anyone can be up there, anyone can be a star, anyone can make art. Which leads me to wonder, why not just perform your own concert, post it on YouTube, and invite your friends over to watch the view count climb?
Posted by Dusty Hoesly