Attracting a crowd of people aged 13 to 30, They Might Be Giants played to a packed house at the Water Street Music Hall last Friday, Oct. 26.
The Music Hall is a relatively intimate venue. Intimate, in this case, means that you get to know your neighbors really well in the “lose all concept of personal space” sort of way. The ground floor has no seats, so to speak, and so the pre-show time was spent on the floor, conversing with my fellow attendees.
OKGO, the opening band, came, wowed the audience and left. This is worth noting simply because the majority of opening bands are barely tolerated as a necessary evil, and rarely, if ever, enjoyed.
In addition to pleasing the crowd with a Smith’s cover and their own music, OKGO paid tribute to They Might Be Giants by covering one of their songs towards the end of their set.
Then there was more sustained waiting. At about 10:00 p.m., right when my legs were getting a bit weak, They Might Be Giants came out, and serenaded us with a classic favorite “Particle Man,” which quite definitely pleased the crowd. They followed it up with another favorite, “Doctor Worm,” before they broke out the new stuff.
Before the show, I had a chance to ask the band some questions about the current tour and recent events. When I asked about how the new album was being received by fans, John Flansburgh said, “The new album is getting an incredibly positive response,” and added, “I don’t think we have ever toured so quickly upon a disc’s release, and most of the people seem fully into it already.”
When the band played “Cyclops Rock,” a song off of their new album, “Mink Car,” it was clear that the fans, and not just the die-hard, buy-the-album-the-day-it’s-released variety of fan, but most of the attendees were enjoying it and knew it.
One song that got an enthused response from the crowd was “James K. Polk,” a homage to the do-nothing president, which pleases musically and comedically at the same time.
What’s important to note here is that these guys aren’t young. They formed in the early 1980s, and have been going strong since then.
When I asked John Linnell about the composition of TMBG’s fan base, he explained his theory on why they could appeal to such a broad age range.
“There is something else going on with our music. We aren’t defining anyone’s lifestyle,” he continued. That is to say, many bands that have reached popularity, do so because they reflect the times and the people living in them.
Nirvana and Creedence Clearwater Revival are perfect examples of this. TMBG, on the other hand, is not trying to be some prolific band that changes people’s lives.
In addition, Linnell added that, “The people who like us already know why they like us, you know? I think that one of the special appeals that we have for people is that we’re their own discovery. They aren’t prodded into liking us.
“They feel like they have a personal relationship to our work because they discovered it themselves, and that makes it a more special thing for them,” he continued.
The concert proved to be a mix of time tested classics, such as “Istanbul (Not Constan-tinople)” and “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” with their newer releases such as “Mink Car” and “Cyclops Rock.” The crowd seemed pleased.
At times, it seemed too pleased. As a public service announcement, I would like to mention that They Might Be Giants is not the sort of band you can mosh to. And, if you are going to mosh, a ballad is not the best time.
Especially if, in the process, you mosh into the other concert attendees who aren’t moshing, many of whom are under the age of 15, and others who might be fragile ? like me.
The crowd was so pleased that they persuaded the band to perform three encores.
Ending the show with “New York City,” and following up with “You’re Not The Boss of Me,” the theme from the Fox TV show “Malcolm in the Middle,” didn’t seem to be enough to sate the crowd, so TMBG finished up with a pleasing rendition of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
This tour, which was, in the words of Linnell, “just promoting a regular old They Might Be Giants album,” comes after TMBG finished up some more commercially focused work.
In addition to composing and performing the theme for “Malcolm in the Middle,” TMBG recently recorded the incidental music for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Flansburgh’s comments on the commercial success of the band expressed contentment. “I don’t think we would mind being far more successful, but we have managed to find a relatively comfortable place in a highly uncomfortable profession.”
They Might Be Giants has been pleasing crowds for decades.
They have transcended the genres of the time to be their own unique sound. Most importantly, when asked if they had any plans to stop working in music or change directions in the near future, Flansburgh’s resounding response was one word, “No.”
Powell can be reached at email@example.com.