Audio Mixers: Chuck Zwicky; Ian Stearns.
Recording information: Summerstage, Central Park, New York, NY (06/22/2011).
Editor: Ian Stearns.
Describing Reggie Watts as the possible love child of Buffy the Human Beat Box and Laurie Anderson is titillating to those who seek the extreme, and there's little doubt that the man's rabid fans love to spread his name and praise his unique style. "You've got to see this guy" followed by something like "he'll blow your mind" is how it usually goes, and while that half of the audience went home from this Central Park show satisfied, with sevens or eights on their scorecards, their skeptical friends went home impressed, but still skeptical. Recorded in 2011, A Live at Central Park is filled with the usual unusual material the comedian/performance artist/beatboxer delivers, although this time the odd jokes, the centered yet surreal observations, and the bits of a cappella sound art are all shoved to the front of the set, as Watts preaches to the converted in wonderful nonsense and raw syllables. With plenty of N.Y.C. shout-outs, Watts is preaching to the regional and converted as well, but round about the great "Having Sex," the beat-boxing begins, the digital delay is switched on, and suddenly Watts is blending Andy Kaufman into Bobby McFerrin into David Cross into Rahzel, while injecting his approachable, warm self into the mix. It's masterful, it's incredibly fun, and up to now, it didn't eclipse his more abstract wordplay or his playful weird jokes, but here, the live set's layout is to blame. By the time the audience participation experiment called "Crab Cakes" rolls around, what should be a transcendent moment for comedy is blown by a restless crowd. Still, there's the alt-rock bit of absurdity called "Reggieohead," the R&B, bouncy, and Revenge of the Nerds-loving "So Good Yeah," plus those weird little smirk-inducing endings Watts exits his more improvisatory pieces with, acting as sweet icing on an avant-garde cake. Meandering and loving it, A Live at Central Park is well above fan-worthy; just don't start here. ~ David Jeffries