Who: They Might Be Giants
Where: The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
When: April 23rd 2013
For a band that have been active since 1982, my only real prior knowledge of They Might Be Giants’ musical output involved their 2002 theme tune ‘Boss of Me’ from Malcolm in the Middle. Adding to this fact, is that the only release of theirs I own, is a copy of their compilation ‘A User’s Guide to…’, which is a highly recommended 29 song retrospective to get you started. Especially for a band that has just released its 16th studio album!
I arrived into the venue just as the support band were walking off stage, it really is something I need to work on! With the Velvet Undergorund’s ‘Loaded’ album getting an airing over the PA, I picked my spot just to the left of the stage, while slowly sipping my pricey pot of beer. Why oh why a mainstay of Melbourne’s music scene doesn’t sell pints is beyond me?
As this is the first of three nights They Might Be Giants are playing in the Corner- with the next two in early May sold out – a very sizable contingent, of vastly different ages, showed up in eager anticipation. The five band members came on stage just after 9.15pm and kicked straight into new song ‘Lost My Mind’ from their most recent record ‘Nanobots’.
The dual vocals of front men John Linnell and John Flansburg match each other perfectly, and this continued with oldie ‘Don’t Let’s Start’, with the latter already starting to pull out some guitar hero-esque moves. Fellow new tunes ‘Call Your Mom’ – with its Chuck Berry sounding guitar – ‘You’re On Fire’ and ‘Circular Karate Chop’ were all given an early airing. A brave enough call I felt, considering this was their first Australian tour in over a decade. Something Flansburgh alluded to by saying that on their last visit here “Melbourne was just all steam” or something to that effect!
Flansburgh has a tendency to move quite enthusiastically about the stage, while regularly swapping places with bass player Danny Weinkauf at any given moment throughout their set. Fan favourite ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’ led the first big sing-a-long of the night, while ‘The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)’ had the band pogoing in unison. ‘Cloisonne’ sees Weinkauf swap over to play keyboard, as Linnell picks up his bass clarinet, much to the the crowds amusement. The multi instrumental talents of the band continued, when lead guitarist Dan Miller then moved onto the keys, as Linnell changed over to the accordian for ‘Dr. Worm’, where the energy levels rose amongst the crowd. This continued throughout the gypsy inspired instrumental ‘The Famous Polka’.
The synthy tinged, robot sounding vocals from Flansburg during newby ‘Nanobots’ comes accross as a great addiition, while the crowd interaction for ‘Battle For Planet of the Apes’ brings an extra enthusiasm out of all in attendance. Their ability to write short sharp catchy choruses continues, during old favourite ‘Ana Ng’, while ‘Fingertips’ countless time changes and varying vocalists, seems like its about twenty songs in one! The final new song of the night ‘Telsa’ is an ode to a mad scientist from the early 20th century.
Linnell’s accordian makes a re-appearance for ‘Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head’. This is followed by the aptly titled ‘1-2-3 Band Intros’, where all five members get a chance to showcase their abilities, which leads to drummer Marty Beller, acting like a modern day Animal. Following a short game involving the crowd, a hand held torch and the band’s ability to guess nick names, they finish up the main set with ‘Damn Good Times’ and ‘When Will You Die’.
After continuous cheers from the appreciative audience, the band returned to play ‘Mammal’, a resounding version of ‘The Mesopotamians’ and ‘New York City’, during what would be the first of two encores. Finally after near on two hours, they finished up with ‘How Can I Sing Like A Girl’ and a mass sing-a-long for ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Their performance – of 29 songs -went by in what seemed like a flash and they rarely if ever hit a bum note throughout. On tonights evidence, there is no doubting that the rest of the tour dates will be just as entertaining and energy sapping for thos in attendance.