I don’t think anyone really knows how much I nerd out about They Might Be Giants. I was 16 the first time I saw them live, the rest of high school I saw TMBG so many times I lost count. I had a group of friends that would drive all over New England with me, those were some good times. The teenage me became strongly attached to the angst filled obliqueness of the lyrics, they introduced me to the happy sounding sad song. As I got older I grew to appreciate the performance art that their live show can often be. I still hardly pass up the chance to see TMBG.
This year TMBG released two of their best albums in the last ten years and are riding high on the current nerd renaissance. The show at Showbox Sodo was pretty spot on. The recent albums have the sound of the early ones, and the show reflected their renewed enthusiasm. The Johns were loving it. The set list covered most of their discog, with only a couple of questionable choices. I don’t think that many people really care to hear “Subliminal” or “Snail Shell”, it’s doubtful they are anyone’s favorite songs. Also, I think it is time they retire “Particle Man”, it sounds unfortunately dated, and at this point most people on earth have seen them perform it. The rest of the set list was curated nicely. The chosen new songs were good ones, highlights on “Marty Beller Mask” and a surprisingly good version of “You Probably Get That A Lot”. “Fingertips” was one of the best versions I’ve seen, and it was awesome to hear “The Guitar” and “Dead” as the second encore.
Can’t Keep Johnny Down
Why Does the Sun Shine?
Old Pine Box
Birdhouse In Your Soul
Damn Good Times
Battle For the Planet of the Apes
Judy is Your Viet Nam
Marty Beller Mask
We Live in a Dump
You Probably Get That A Lot
Alphabet of Nations
Careful What You Pack
How Can I Sing Like a Girl?
When Will You Die?
i’ve been a fan of they might be giants for almost as long as i can remember. when i was younger someone gave me a copy of lincoln and i never looked back, they just click with me. they are also the band that i get the most flack for liking. which is strange because a good portion of my music is way more out there than tmbg. growing up in connecticut they seemed to play in or around ct four of five times a year, i’ve seen them more times than i care to even try to count. they have always put on a great live show, giving it their all. unlike most of their fans i have actually kept up on their releases, true that none of them will ever be classics like lincoln and flood became, but they do generally have two or three great songs. i should say that i haven’t given their children’s albums a chance, even i don’t need to hear them singing about the abc’s or math. if you’ve never seen gigantic (a tale of two johns), i would recommend it, i can even lend it to you.
the last time i saw tmbg was at a two night stint they did at the crocodile cafe in seattle six or seven years ago, i was there both nights. it was great seeing them in a tiny venue again, and they killed. this time i saw them at the crystal ballroom, which i’ve never been to before even though i can practically see it from our apartment.
i didn’t enjoy this show as much as i have in the past. tmbg didn’t seem to be with it that night, they seemed rather low energy. the setlist was a little weak for me also. i understand they have to play material off new albums, but this was an adult show, and they played too many songs off their kids albums.
musically they’re in great shape, they can still rock. i think another problem i had was with the venue. the crystal ballroom is a long narrow parallelagram shaped room and the stage is at an angle. i kept found myself standing with my waist twisted. my body wanted to align with the wall, while my head wanted to see the stage. also because of oregon’s liquor laws, there is an eight foot chasm down the middle of the crowd to separate the drinkers from the youngins. i found that really distracting, and so didn’t tmbg, who remarked on it several times. i don’t think i will be going back to the crystal ballroom again, unless it’s someone i have to see.
there were a lot of great moments in the show, i had a good time, i don’t fault the band for my not fully enjoying it. i just never connected with the show. i’ll see them again one day, just not at the same venue.