I remember once hearing a commercial radio broadcast during which the announcers were putting a listener to air. The listener had been the night before to the first of many concerts being performed by some pop star and sponsored by the station. The caller described how fantastic she had found the concert. ‘She sounded just like the CD!’ the caller reviewed excitedly.
I also remember thinking that describing the singer as sounding just like the CD as a positive thing was backwards, because if one wanted to hear something sounding like a CD, one could stay at home and listen to the stereo.
They Might Be Giants,
The Forum, Melbourne, November 7, 2015…
Looking over a full Forum, John Flansburgh commented ‘Wow, this place is nice,’ to laughter from the dense crowd. He kept it going by continuing. ‘I’m not kidding. We’re used to playing in some dumps.’
The show had started early, and a steady stream of patrons was still filing into the back of the venue several songs into the first set (tonight’s proceedings stylishly divided by an intermission.) This was justified by what would turn out to be an extensive setlist, of at least 30 songs (and that is considering Fingertips to be a single song!) Cheers accompanied the revelation of the accordion for Particle Man, and a cover of Destiny’s Child’s Bills, Bills, Bills is well-received. They made the most of their stage-time to include as many songs as possible from a career described tonight as spanning albums released on cassette to songs streamed online. They played to a backdrop of a live feed of tonight’s performance projected upside down, with none of the theatrics or Muppets of their previous visit to Melbourne. The pure rock setup suited the band and the venue, though a solo accordion backing for Istanbul (Not Constantinople) gave the few moshing in the front row a change to breathe before the frantic first set closer of Fingertips.
Themed cocktails were served by the Forum’s bar during intermission, before the band re-emerged on stage, excitingly backed by Akira Ifukube’s score to Godzilla, for no comprehensible reason other than style. This set had us dancing from the beginning with up-tempo tunes New York City and Ana Ng back-to-back, and followed by the new song Let Me Tell You About My Operation, which could have explained the queues to buy the new record from the merchandise stand after the show. And there are surely very few bands who can prompt applause by introducing a song as being about historical politics, especially so many miles from their own and that political system’s home, but the build up to James K. Polk did just that, and continued the theme of jumping around.
But it was when the band really mixed up the sound that they outshone even their own live performances. Songs from pre-concert wishlists appeared, but mixed up on the scene to take on a new life. Highlights were a pop-punk take of Man, It’s So Loud In Here, and a rhapsodic Robot Parade, complete with scat breakdowns and audience participation. The set could be presented to establish a case that only should one try to see They Might Be Giants live, but that all music fans should check out live music more often, just for the chance to see favourite songs in a way they never expected.