When John Linnell and John Flansburgh formed a band in 1982, there’s no way they could’ve imagined that they’d still be going strong in 2007 with a large devoted fan base. As a child of the ‘80s, I have fond memories of They Might Be Giants. “Birdhouse in Your Soul” was on many of my early childhood mixtapes, and I can still remember when the song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” was featured on Tiny Toon Adventures. Many try to write them off as a novelty act due to their often absurd lyrics, but those silly little songs are not only insanely clever but also very well written pop gems.
I was at Bowery Ballroom last night to witness They Might Be Giants, as they played their first night of a 4 night residency at the venue. After taking the stage, the band ripped right into the lead track on their new album (The Else) “I’m Impressed.” Quickly a tone was set that the band was going to play a set heavy on new tunes. Thankfully The Else has been a real return to form, and is one of this year’s best pop albums. But they did not strictly go with new material, they played a mix of songs from throughout their whole career, from children’s song “Alphabet of Nations” to their biggest hit “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” “Drink!” had the audience swaying back and forth, with fists in the air, chanting along, and set closers “Turn Around” and “Why Does the Sun Shine?” really got the crowd bopping.
The band also managed to receive a call deceased former NYC mayor John Lindsay, during the middle of their performance. Lindsay praised the New York music scene, and proceeded to go on about Jay Z’s Black Album, and music videos being shot in the city.
For their first encore, the band was accompanied by a 3-man horn section, which included Mark Pender (of Late Night with Conan O’Brien fame). The finished the 5-song encore with a thrilling version of “Istanbul.”
Not satisfied with one encore, the Johns returned to the stage for a an acoustic version of “With the Dark,” and then finally closing the night with new song “The Mesopotamians.”
They Might Be Giants return to the Bowery Ballroom every Wednesday for the next three weeks. Each of the shows will have a theme: July 25th = ‘90s; August 1st = ‘80s; and Augst 8th = children’s night.
Photos courtesy of Jonny-Leather