Words Anthony Moore.
Photos Adam Russ – Right Eye Media Australia.
There’s something that makes me feel youthful when hearing the name, They Might Be Giants. It could be that I first heard them when I was a lot younger, but I think it has more to do with their exuberance and enthusiasm. They bring a level of quirky excitement that most bands don’t and can’t, so finally getting to see them live for the first time made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
There was a lack of needing to check ID’s on the way into the Forum due to, shall we say, the mature age of most of the punters going along to see They Might Be Giants. I include myself in that group, now unfortunately a couple of years on the wrong side of forty. After that was brought to my attention, it was perhaps reinforced a little more when the first band on looked old enough, or is it young enough, to be our children! Opening up the night was The Flying So High-Os; an acoustic guitar clad singer leading a three-piece that made me think of The Clouds and Frente with happy sounding songs about deeper subjects. They had chirpy melodies singing about love, loneliness and I think it was ‘grabbing a rock and beating two birds to death’. You know, the regular stuff. Their Facebook page has their genre as “Hard Folk” and I think that sits well, or maybe Emotional Pop.
The Flying So High-Os really hit their mark when they had two guests on stage with them for different songs; Jamie Kemp on trumpet for ‘Weak Knights On The Weekend’ and Kezia Knappet (singer, guitarist Jerome Knappet’s twin sister) on vocals for ‘Twins Are Fun, Just Ask My Mum’. Another layer brought extra emotion and depth and Kezia especially rounded their sound out beautifully and accentuated Jerome’s talent for writing well crafted songs.
The room waited patiently for They Might Be Giants with a massive TV test pattern on a screen on the back wall of the stage and some amazing music to keep us psyched; QOTSA – ‘Go With The Flow’, The Hives – ‘Tick Tick Boom’ and Willie Nelson – ‘There Stands The Glass’, among others.
They Might Be Giants walked out to massive cheers. It didn’t matter that the crowd was made up of fans from new to completely obsessed; everyone felt that enthusiasm from the first steps the band took closer to playing. Original members John Flansburgh (vocals, guitar) and John Linnell (vocals, keyboards, accordion, clarinet) are joined by long time members Dan Miller (guitar, keyboard), Danny Weinkauf (bass) and Marty Beller (drums).
They kicked off the set perfectly with the track ‘Can’t Keep Johnny Down’, a single from their 2011 album, Join Us. The song is classic TMBG’s; a catchy song with beautiful melodies and skipping tempo that has you smiling and happy yet at the same time there’s a somewhat darker lyric beneath. Camera’s pointed at the stage were shown onto the back wall and rotated in various ways, upside down and sideways, which changed from time to time and added some very cool visuals as the backdrop to the band.
Flansburgh told the photographers they could stay around and not have to stick to the three songs and you’re out rule, even inviting them up on stage to take photos of the band with the crowd cheering behind them. Very cool moment.
I put They Might Be Giants in the same vein as Devo and Zappa in that they superbly craft songs with varying tempo’s, mood changes and at times keep the song fluttering about with contrasting lyrics and emotion. Perhaps they’re even the original Mr Bungle, filling their songs with the absurd and obscure and taking 90 degree turns in an instant to throw you off your train of dance. Even TMBG’s stage set up is different to the norm with Beller’s drum’s set up stage left and facing stage right and Flansburgh’s mic has ants in its pants as he moves it around in various places on the stage; next to the drums, centre front of stage or awkwardly right behind Miller during a lead break.
All of this adds up to a wonderfully unique show with They Might Be Giants keeping the Forum’s attention the entire time. They included the ‘standard’ classics you’d expect like ‘Dr Worm’, ‘The Statue Got Me High’, ‘Particle Man’, ‘Twisting’, ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’, ‘The Mesopotamians’, and The Four Lads cover, ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’, which was easily one of the high lights of the night; with only Flansburgh and Linnel on stage and hamming it up during an extended version.
This is also what TMBG’s do so well that a lot of others can’t. They talk a lot more than most bands between songs and some of it is quite left field yet they know and understand their fans well and it never gets tiring or out of place and more importantly, never breaks or slows down the mood. It often had us laughing as it’s sometimes more stand-up routine than giving us background about where a song may have come from. Earlier on they’d explained they were only going to give 80 – 85% all night, nothing more and nothing less.
It’s clear that these guys are both intelligent and extremely talented, as is the rest of the band, and although they play two sets (complete with an intermission) that lasted for two hours, it never gets tiring or same and They Might Be Giants keeps you on your toes tapping away and smiling from ear to ear.
The entire night was a highlight; a room full of people just there for a great night with They Might Be Giants delivering every song well beyond their meager target of 85%. Highlights, as mentioned ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’, ‘Authenticity Trip’ (coolest guitar parts), ‘Man It’s So Loud In Here’, ‘Fingertips’, ‘The Statue Got Me High’, ‘The Mesopotamians’, the Jonathan Richman cover ‘I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar’ (very cool bass clarinet in this which reminded of Morphine) and the Destiny’s Child cover ‘Bills, Bills Bills’, (originally recorded for the AV Club’s Undercover Series which features bands covering songs quite obscure to them own).
The Might Be Giants set list:
1. Can’t Keep Johnny Down
2. Music Jail, Parts 1 & 2
3. The Mesopotamians
4. Particle Man
5. Damn Good Times
6. When Will You Die
7. We Live in a Dump
8. Bills, Bills, Bills (Destiny’s Child cover)
9. Rhythm Section Want Ad
11. Authenticity Trip
12. Man, It’s So Loud In Here
14. Istanbul (Not Constantinople) (The Four Lads cover)
16. New York City (cub cover)
17. Ana Ng
18. Let Me Tell You About My Operation
19. Where Your Eyes Don’t Go
20. Number Three
21. Careful What You Pack
22. The Statue Got Me High
23. Withered Hope
24. Black Ops
25. I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar (Jonathan Richman cover)
26. James K. Polk
27. Robot Parade
29. Birdhouse in Your Soul
31. Doctor Worm