Celebrating a seminal album, They Might Be Giants once again proves the birdhouses in their souls are still aflutter with energy thirty years later.
A They Might Be Giants show is a musical kaleidoscope; with every turn, something new and crazy emerges. Totally unexpected and totally unpredictable are their live shows and at The Ritz in Raleigh, NC, the second stop of their An Evening With They Might Be Giants Tour, was true to form.
They Might Be Giants (abbreviated as TMBG) formed in the early 1980s by John Flansburgh on guitar and John Linnell on accordion and saxophone. This tour is a celebration of their breakout album, Flood, released in 1990 which the band played in its entirety over the course of the evening. Joined by a backing band inclusive of a horn section, TMBG performed songs from the majority of their discography and arguably didn’t leave a fan favorite song out of their 32-song set.
Later referring to themselves as a “They Might Be Giants-sounding cover band,” TBMG performed two full sets with a brief intermission between them and no opening act. The sold-out audience at The Ritz was primarily people who had purchased TMBG’s albums when they were originally released and were extremely enthusiastic for the entire evening. The band came on stage after a recorded version of their They Might Be Giants “Intro” and immediately started with the musical shenanigans the band is so well known for.
John Flansburgh welcomed everyone to the show and promised an amazing evening because the pre-show soundcheck was completely miserable. If this equation is true, the soundcheck must have been historically terrible because old favorites and new songs sounded fresh and alive, keeping the audience entranced and moving all night long. “Fingertips” from the Apollo 18 album is a song only TMBG can open up with. Chaotic and reeling like an abstract painting, the addition of a relatively simple light show shining on a very crowded stage filled with musical equipment made the audience’s eyes uncertain where to focus amongst the spiraling sound and vision. Songs “Letterbox” and “Synopsis for Latecomers” from the band’s latest album Book followed, clarifying Flood would be interspersed with music from other albums throughout the night.
The horn section entered the stage for “Brontosaurus” and added a whole new brassy and fun dimension to the song. TMBG remained true to the original for most of their songs including “Hot Cha” and “Road Movie to Berlin” but when it came to “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love,” the band recorded themselves performing the song and choreography in reverse. Why? To open up the second set of the evening the recording was played back in reverse and quite amazingly the reversed recording was quite close to a proper performance of the song! Strange, wacky, dangerous to try, and true-to-form for TMBG.
Highlights of the evening included a well-performed version of “Number Three” from their debut album, a song the band said they butchered badly at their show in Richmond, VA the evening before. A reimagined version of “Whistling in the Dark” followed. If the Devil were to be found skipping down a dark and eerie path on a moonless night, this is unquestionably the song he’d be singing in this exact creepy way. The second set closed out with their hit “Birdhouse in Your Soul” followed by two encores that closed the evening with the lighthearted death letter of a song, “When Will You Die.”
They Might Be Giants may perhaps be the coolest band on Earth. Unafraid to be themselves and engage with the audience with genuine appreciation and joy, this tour celebrating Flood is certain to delight every fan. Just as certain that science is real, They Might Be Giants are just as fun and musically amazing now as they were over forty years ago.THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS
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