Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Concert Series: They Might Be Giants

I know I’ve seen They Might Be Giants (TMBG) four times. It could be more. They do blur together a bit. They are one of the most fun live band experiences out there.

When I was a sophomore in college, TMBG came out with their first real single, “Don’t Let’s Start” in 1987. Living in the LA area, KROQ played all the cool new music and had it in heavy rotation. I loved it. Acquired the album and enjoyed it, but not as much as that one song.

Fast forward to junior year, 1988. TMBG had released more music and I met Alice who was a huge TMBG fan. She played more TMBG for me and once again I found a few songs that I loved and enjoyed the rest.

Now, TMBG are a difficult band to describe. They are smart. Funny. Ironic. Their lyrics cut every which way. They take traditional rock arrangements, turn them on their side, add accordions and funky horns and quirky synths and create a singular, unique sound. They really explore their musical space. They write children’s songs and Disney theme songs. They have an unreal appreciation for history and weave it into their act. They are, in essence, a renaissance band full of renaissance men.

All of the shows I’ve seen have had great moments. They’ve also all been within the last six years. Turns out it took me fifteen years from when I first heard them to get to one of their shows.

The first show that I saw was postponed because of September 11th. Rescheduled for about nine months later. The Crystal Ballroom was sweltering hot. The band had great energy and got great energy back from the Portland crowd. Two moments stand out: the extended drum solo where the drummer played in different styles prompted by the crowd: from Charlie Watts to Stevie Wonder to Animal from the Muppets. Hi-Larious. The second was when they played “New York City”. A fast paced, heartfelt love song. In the aftermath of September 11th, and the connection that show had to the event, the song meant more that night to me than it ever did before and ever will again. I’m certain of that.

I saw the band most recently in September of this year. Roseland theater this time. I really enjoyed the show as they played some more obscure songs than before. They even played “We’re The Replacements” which is a personal fave that I’d never seen them play live before. There was a horn section. They received phone calls from Carl Sagan’s grave. Good stuff.

What I really love about this band and its audience is that every fan of theirs has a different favorite song. They have that many good ones and speak to that diverse an audience. My personal favorites include the aforementioned “We’re The Replacements” plus “’Til My Head Falls Off”, “Ana Ng”, “Why Does The Sun Shine?” and “Another First Kiss”.

So, if TMBG come to your town and you’ve ever enjoyed their recorded music, go check them out. You will leave with a smile on your face and a bounce in your step. You might also feel a bit smarter.



Lucas said...

I only saw them for the first time a few years ago at a free concert (Bite of Portland) under the Hawthorne Bridge.

But I got the full TMBG experience about a year later at the Crystal Ballroom: they gave out giant foam #1 hands; half of their set were songs they'd written on that tour about the various venues they'd played; and they did their audience conga line, which was just so so brilliant (one of the Johns signing "Everybody conga! I'm not fucking kidding! Hands on the hips of a stranger!").

As for my favorite song...gosh that's a hard one. The entirety of the album "Lincoln" is great, so many wonderful tracks..."Ana Ng" and "Purple Toupee" and "Where Your Eyes Don't Go"

what a great band...

Bruce said...

The Bite of Portland show was a fun time. Death Cab For Cutie opened which brought me joy.

Every show/tour is different. Love them for that.

GK said...

Saw the free show with Obi, which was brilliant. I loved the show at the Roseland later on, cause they did a rousing rendition of Birdhouse in Your Soul. I also sat with Lucas at the Crystal show in the balcony, and had an absolute blast of a time.