Concert Review

The Wiggles at Dodge Theatre: Rock Out With Plenty of "Wiggle" Room to Make It Home For Bedtime

By Stefan Shepherd

Assumed similarities between last night's Wiggles show at the Dodge Theatre and the Aerosmith show at Cricket Pavilion:

- Overpriced parking
- Coverage of the greatest hits
- Fans that knew the words to every song

Assumed differences:
- Hair length (advantage: Aerosmith)
- Audience age (even setting aside the half the audience that wasn't alive when Aerosmith last released a studio album in 2004, the rest of the audience in downtown Phoenix was younger than than the cougars and guys who bought Toys in the Attic the week it was released in 1975
- Length of the beer lines (Dodge Theatre -- zero wait... because they weren't selling beer)
- Volume of the show (the Wiggles show was proof that the Dodge Theatre doesn't have to sound deafening like the Pixies and the Cure did in previous shows)

So, yeah, I understand that the Wiggles show isn't exactly this paper's target audience. I'm not expecting the New Times to put up a slideshow of pictures I took at the concert (I can just hear the music editor shouting, "I told him I needed more pictures of Dorothy the Dinosaur! How do you expect me to gin up our page views now?")

Though you might expect our family to be the Wiggles' target audience, but we're not, really. We played the Wiggles a few times when our daughter was young, and she never expressed any interest. Since I started reviewing kids music, we've never been at a loss for kids music, with no need to see if our younger son would have a different reaction to the band. So I've somehow gone through raising two kids without any significant Wiggles exposure. Which made me an exception in last night's audience. Although the balcony was closed, most of the rest of the place was packed and clapping along after the first few notes of every song in this, the second show of the day.

In some ways the concert was a lot like any big-name production. The Wiggles had more costume changes than Beyonce and Britney -- there were the standard Primary Color Wiggles, Beatles Wiggles, Disco Wiggles, and -- most scarily -- Gymnastics Wiggles, among many others. They ran through their big hits ("Big Red Car," the opener, "Rockabye Your Bear"). They covered someone else's big hit (Raffi's "Baby Beluga"). They even had a big guitar solo, or at least what passes for a big guitar solo for the preschool set ("Play Guitar With Murray," with Red Wiggle Murray Cook). Of course, the Wiggles played their instruments at most maybe half the time, but I don't think there was any lip-syncing going on.

Oh, and just like Beyonce and Britney, the Wiggles travel with dancers. Like, a dozen of 'em. They weren't so much dancers as they were gymnasts (or, perhaps, cheerleaders with extra tumbling abilities). So it was sort of like Baby's First Cirque du Soleil. Some of the gymnastics I could've done without. Anthony the Blue Wiggle and Captain Feathersword, both dressed in lycra, did some tumbling to Australia's unofficial national song, "Waltzing Matilda" with a couple other gymnasts on this cube thingy constructed out of PVC piping It would be equivalent to having Big Bird and the rest of the Sesame Street crew on the flying trapeze, set to "God Bless America."

At times, the whole thing felt just a bit too thrown together -- the Wiggles did a quite enjoyable rendition of "Old Dan Tucker," with everyone in Western cowboy costuming... and Captain Feathersword, not in Western cowboy costuming. It was as if the show designer just said, "If 2 people tumbling is good, 8 are better! Oh, and let's have them dressed as harlequins!"

But it was hard not to enjoy the concert because the kids were clearly enjoying themselves (my own son, included, who spent most of the show in my lap, a little slack-jawed, but clapping at the end of every song). And when, at the end of the show, the band asked everyone to turn on their cellphones to mimic stars for a sing-along to "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," it was pretty much like a show for adults. And everybody stood up and sung along on the very last song, "Hot Potato." It was just like every other big rock show.

Except we got home by 8 PM.

Critic's Notebook

Last Night: The Wiggles at the Dodge Theatre

Better than: A poke in the eye with a sharp stick (e.g., this video with Kylie Minogue). But really, a reasonably pleasant 75 minutes with your kid.

Personal Bias: Strongly pro-Dan Zanes, Lunch Money, and Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, among others. But for better or worse, none of them tour with acrobats and a green dinosaur.

Random Fact: Before forming the Wiggles, Anthony Field (Blue Wiggle) and Jeff Fatt (Purple Wiggle) were in an '80s pop group called the Cockroaches. Songs like "She's The One" and Some Kind Of Girl" aren't half-bad, but it's not entirely surprising they decided to move on...