Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
Quite possibly the hardest working band in the business, They Might Be Giants hit London to promote Nanobots, their 16th album in the 27 years they’ve been together – impressive, especially given they seem to be constantly on the road.
They show no sign of slowing down, quite the opposite in fact, promoting this as “An Evening with They Might Be Giants” and choosing not to have a support act so they could deliver a longer set of 90 minutes with an additional 30 minutes for their TWO encores.
With such an extensive back catalogue their live shows always seem fresh and varied, even with the surely compulsory inclusion of their biggest hits Birdhouse In Your Soul and Istanbul (Not Constantinople), and “the only song we are contractually obliged to play” Doctor Worm. This set gave the new album plenty of chances to shine showcasing seven of its tracks, with still plenty of room for earlier classics including the peculiar 21-song compilation that is Fingertips.
As incredible as their extended family Dan Miller (guitar), Danny Weinkauf (bass) and Marty Beller (drums) are, we were reminded of the band’s beginnings as the two John’s reclaimed Istanbul (Not Constantinople) for themselves. A simpler accordion-led version replaced the extended introduction of recent years, but then the middle section was slowed to ridiculously hilarious extremes (“Take me back / You can’t go back… / I’m prepared to go by any means of transportation”).
Those of us stood in the stalls were divided in two to participate in the Battle for the Planet of the Apes, and the reluctant crowd seated in the Empire’s three balconies (“those who prefer to enjoy rock concerts as if they were home videos”) were reminded by John Flansburgh that he was 53 years old and running about the stage, so surely they could stand for two minutes! They did, and battle commenced as our half chanted “People! People!” during Danny, Dan & Marty’s jamming, and our challengers yelled “Apes! Apes!” as Johns Flansburgh & Linnell jammed back. The Apes won despite my best efforts – apologies, humankind.
The final section of the main set whipped an already manic crowd (given our ages) into a frenzy with a run of their most energetic and danceable (it’s pretty much impossible to dance to Fingertips, believe me) tracks, Ana Ng, cub cover New York City and ending with the fabulously frenetic Rhythm Section Want Ad.
Sock puppets The Avatars of They thanked the band for providing support for them before their rendition of He’s Loco, after which the band returned for two equally exciting encores. Walking back to the tube station I passed many happy people each humming or singing their favourite tunes of the night. Damn Good Times, indeed.
Set list (courtesy of TMBW):