After 20 years of rocking the indie music scene with their jubilant brand of pop-rock and quirky lyrics, They Might Be Giants has shown no signs of slowing down. Their show at Toad’s Place last Friday was a testament to the band’s long career and loyal fan base, as the group’s fans packed the York Street venue for the first show of the band’s current U.S. tour.
The two original Giants, guitarist John Flansburgh and keyboardist/accordionist John Linnell, were backed Friday by their appropriately titled “Band of Dans,” drummer Dan Hickey, guitarist Dan Miller and bassist Dan Weinkauf. The group began their almost two-hour-long performance with their signature song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” highlighted by Miller’s blistering acoustic guitar work.
The group’s set included such longtime favorites as “Birdhouse In Your Soul” and “Dr. Worm,” as well as songs from their children’s album “No!” Flansburgh howled through the energetic “Cyclops Rock,” while Linnell’s trademark accordion drove hits like “Particle Man” and “The Statue Got Me High.”
Flansburgh and Linnell surprised many audience members by their inclusion of the song “Fingerprints” from their Apollo 18 album. The song, which is actually 21 song fragments strung together, has not typically been included in earlier Giants concerts because of its rapid transitions and disparate musical styles, but the band pulled off Friday’s rendition without a hitch. The tune concluded with a searing classic rock-styled jam led by Flansburgh’s and Miller’s taut electric guitars.
Between songs the band entertained with their keen sense of humor. Flansburgh joked that the chain link fence that separated bar patrons from the rest of the crowd was electrified, and Linnell added that he felt more secure with a barrier between the band and those drinking. The group later dedicated their song “Drink!” to those on the bar side of the fence. The band also brought a radio with them and several times attempted to play along with whatever song was on at the time.
However, the show did include a number of difficulties. The concert, which was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., did not begin until after 10, with They Might Be Giants taking the stage at almost 11. The diminutive size of Toad’s Place also was not a good fit for the band’s often-aggressive musical style, as many of the group’s harder songs overpowered the small venue. In addition, the subtle textures of classics such as “New York City” were often lost in a sea of blaring electric guitars.
But despite these shortcomings, last Friday’s concert proved They Might Be Giants’ staying power and highlighted the innovative lyrics and arrangements that have made the band such a success. The Toad’s Place show was probably not one of the band’s best concerts, but it was certainly good enough to send the band’s fan base home happy.
Sporting an accentuated hairstyle and several facial piercings, Kimya Dawson of the band Moldy Peaches opened the show with a brief acoustic set, accompanied only by a percussionist. Dawson’s morose lyrics, uninspired chord progressions, and muddled singing were not met with enthusiasm by the restless They Might Be Giants fans.