Kiki & Herb Live at the Knitting Factory

Movies
4 out of 5 stars
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Photograph: kikiandherb.com

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

The last decade of NYC nightlife is unimaginable without Kiki & Herb, the genius cabaret act created by Justin Bond and Kenny Mellman, who transformed the downtown queer scene. In the duo’s first concert DVD (recorded on May 17, 2007, as part of their Year of Magical Drinking tour), Kiki (Bond), the boozy, woozy chanteuse, and Herb (Mellman), her “gay Jew ’tard” pianist, take to the stage with outrageous lines drawn on their faces, signifying their showbiz senescence. The camerawork and lighting are cruddy, but not even those major technical shortcomings detract from the act’s unhinged brilliance. In between covers of “Moments of Pleasure,” “Luka” and “Heroin,” Kiki recounts a ladies’-room chat with Lillian Hellman in the 1950s, her “intimate relationship with Jesus,” and her fondness for Louisa May Alcott and punctuation.

“Kiki loves you / Kiki needs you / Kiki would die for you,” Bond keens during the encore, and the audience never forgets that they are part of a sadomasochistic connection with the performers. Yet, as is explained early in the show, Kiki & Herb are immortal now—and seemingly better behaved. Gone are the exhilarating, terrifying days when Kiki would hop up on your table, forcing you to lick her leg while she sang PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me.” But a clip from a K&H performance at Fez in 1999 reminds us of those more aggro times, as Kiki, slurping down her C.C. and ginger, shushes the crowd for interrupting her tales of the “Concubine” high-school massacre and recent events in “Bosnia-Herzegovagina.”

—Melissa Anderson

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