To begin the Independent Theatre’s new series Sundays, Supper & Song, the much beloved Spooky Men’s Chorale returned for a concert featuring old favourites from their repertoire and selections from their newest album. Described by their spookmeister Stephen Taberner as the “right amount of cheese”, the group’s combination of heart and humour hasn’t gotten old.
After forming in 2001, the Spooky Men are now a 15 strong all-male a cappella choir with 7 EPs and albums and a performance history of over 750 gigs all over the world. Their portfolio includes dad joke comedy originals like “Jim”, about their jealousy towards Jim from Jim’s Mowing, and “We Are Not a Men’s Group”, which stresses that while they are men and they are a group, the Spooky Men are not a men’s group, as well as covers like Tom Waits’s “Picture in a Frame”. Interspersed with the comedy are more serious numbers like the love song “Sweetest Kick” featuring the line, “You gave me the sweetest kick in the heart”.
Expertly conducted by Taberner, the group are exceptional singers with a surprising range demonstrated in solo performances from select members. With the schtick of being bumbling men, lost and in need of direction, they urge you to underestimate them such that their talent and control are even more impressive.
This concert incorporated these Spooky classics with newer songs from their 2019 album Welcome to the Second Half. This selection, performed understandably in the second half of the concert, took a slightly more introspective turn with songs like “What’s going to happen now?” about the awkward stage of a conversation when you’re not sure if the small talk segment has ended and if you can start bringing up meaningful things now. “Waiting for our things” attempts an extended metaphor about climate change as related to people collecting their baggage inefficiently at the airport while “Imposter” imagines the Spooky Men without the authoritative gaze of their spookmeister, revealing each member’s imposter syndrome and insistence they don’t know what they’re doing. For such a reflective concept, “Imposter” is particularly upbeat and perky, further emphasising the facade of comfort.
Perhaps the more reserved second half is indicative of the group’s age. Quickly approaching 20 years of singing and performing, the Spooky Men have more room to revel in their musical talent without gimmick. This feels true of their performances of “Pallet on your floor” and “Crossing the bar”, two pieces that are simply beautiful examples of choral music. Whatever the future holds for the Spooky Men, it would be difficult to shed their cheeky nature and the warmth their fans feel for them.
The Spooky Men in Concert was performed at the Independent Theatre on February 16th