They Might Be GiantsThey Might Be Giants (TMBG) are touring with two fresh albums. Earlier this year, they released Join Us and their new album, Album Raises New And Troubling Questions releases later this month. As they played material from both albums, the band suggested that Join Us is better, but Album makes up for it in quantity. That kind of low key, self deprecating humor set the mood for TMBG, who delivered the full package for the excited crowd: quirkiness, humor, sincerity, and exceptional musical talent.
After the first song wrapped up, TMBG thanked us for coming out, "We know you have your choice of ossified alternative rock bands, and we're happy that you chose to fly with us tonight." This was a special show on the tour. On the downside, opener Jonathan Coulton didn't join the tour for this show. Still, TMBG performed their full album, Flood, albeit in reverse order. The rationale was that the conceptual second side of the album shared their real emotions and feelings as a band.
The show was structured with a short set at the beginning followed by Flood. Finally, they tagged the show with a 20 minute encore split into two parts. This gave them a chance to share a mix of old and new material.
The stage set up was roomy, giving guitarist John Flansburgh plenty of room to move around, hauling his mike stand with him. John Linnel spent the bulk of his time anchored stage center at the keyboards. A projected backdrop adapted to the various songs.
The first section of the set had a number of wonderful moments, from a spirited vocal performance on Alphabet of Nations (Here Come the ABC's) to new track Cloisonné (Join Us) featuring John Linnel on bass clarinet. The audience participation piece, Battle For the Planet of the Apes, was a lot fun and proved to be a recurring theme. The crowd often reverted back to chanting, "APE! APE!" or "PEOPLE!" at random moments, eventually leading Flans to blurt, "Please! It was just part of the show. It was not supposed to be the whole show" with exasperation.
As TMBG wound their way back through the songs on Flood, they stayed true to the band's earlier personality, but changed the songs to take advantage of having a full band. So, Hot Cha had a nice, jazzy interlude and We Want a Rock had a stronger, anthemic feel. The peak of the set, though, was Istanbul (Not Constantinople), which featured a wonderful "Miller Time" intro by guitarist Dan Miller. He riffed off the melody to start, but soon took off into a jazz interlude with elements of George Benson and Allan Holdsworth before settling into a flamenco groove.
In typical eccentric fashion, TMBG threw a break between the two theoretical sides of Flood. It was a tribute to Don Kirshner's Rock Concert with a song by their sock puppet alter-egos, the Avatars of They (and a photo of Meg Ryan!). The band wrapped up this hysterical break with a solid cover of Free Ride before getting back to Flood.
The only negative for the show (aside from the missing Coulton) was the sloppy musical mix in the house. The sound was fairly muddy, with an over-dominant kick drum. Birdhouse In Your Soul suffered the most from the mix problems. Despite this, They Might Be Giants gave the crowd both what they wanted and deserved: a great mix of old and new songs, an full night's show, and quality entertainment. Keep an eye out for their visit near you.
More photos on my Flickr.