13 July 2005 by Published in: entertainment 2 comments

Last night, Kurt and I went to see They Might Be Giants at The Pageant. TMBG is one of our favorite bands of all time, and we’d never seen them, a serious omission. It’s the first time we’ve been to a concert in a long while. We saw a couple of bands play events in Jackson (Joan Jett at the fair, for example) but I think the last time we saw a band in a venue was when we saw Ozomatli at the House of Blues in the Crescent City…oh, I don’t know, like six years ago or something. Pre-Sophia.

So, you know, it was loud. And I’m old. But The Pageant is a really nice venue, much more comfortable than I thought it would be. There was seating, even though it was general admission. The sweaty pit was isolated from the seating, which was a scattering of coffee tables and some bar stools along a u-shaped counter. There was more to the audience than a bunch of fifteen year olds, which was a relief. And They Might Be Giants are amazing talents. Their session guys are amazing, and John and John are geniuses. I’m serious about that. GENIUSES. You know, it’s obvious that their ability to crank out a zillion songs about any old thing in any genre is part of their gift, and they leveraged that fully at the show.

Set List, as I remember it, and probably somewhat out of order or incomplete:

  • Istanbul not Constantinople (This included all the queer, warbly keyboard sounds of the 6 minute version of this and it was a great way to start the show.)
  • Alphabet of Nations (They did a cute ABC thing at the end with sets of other nations. Sophia would have loved it. I dug it.)
  • Damn Good Times
  • Doctor Worm (“I’m not a real doctor but I am an actual worm”.)
  • Snail Shell (Their rendition of this beloved song was fabulous.)
  • Experimental Film
  • Venue Songs Mini-Set (This was an amazing set of songs about places where they had played during their 2004 tour, when they made songs up about each venue right before they played it. They read a narrative between the songs that was really engaging and funny. The songs themselves rocketed through genres in a way that was both reverent and satirical, as well as incredibly enjoyable.)
  • Museum of Idiots
  • John Lee Supertaster
  • Clap Your Hands (They called this the They Might Be Giants anthem, and asked everyone to stand while it was played, which made me happy and bouncy. Another one that I know Sophia would have enjoyed.)
  • Thankfully shortened version of Malcolm in the Middle theme song (It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I thought it wasn’t necessary.)
  • Birdhouse In Your Soul (I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t play this. How tired of it they must be! But then I realized that what makes it new again is the crowd. They love it, and they projected so much energy when it was played that I had to get up and dance and yell “after killing Jason off and countless screaming Argonauts!!!” along with everyone else.)
  • Don’t Let’s Start (love, love, love this one almost as much as “Sleeping in the Flowers”. John Linnell thanked the audience for the impromptu Conga line that started during this song, which was sweet. How did he even notice?)
  • Drink! (This song called for audience participation. John F. explained that anytime he said drink we were to say “drink, drink” in a fast waltz tempo. It was fun.)
  • Memo to Human Resources
  • I Am A Grocery Bag
  • The Guitar
  • Working Undercover for the Man (In his intro, John Flansburgh said, “And remember: The Man is a euphemism for….the Man.”)
  • Encore 1 : Fingertips (We were astonished that they could pull this off live. Unreal. Did I mention that these guys are geniuses, yet? John Linnell was hilarious during “I don’t understand you” and John Flansburgh did some miming during “I’m having a heart attack” that made me guffaw. They started this off saying they’d like to play all night, but they only had 18 more songs. I knew then it would be Fingertips, but I still couldn’t believe they could make it work outside the studio.), Ana Ng (ah yes, a classic, a favorite. We were very glad to hear it.)
  • Encore 2 : Older (this was just as quirky and cool as it is on the album), Robot Parade (lots of marching from side to side of the stage and saluting and so forth. Fun.), Cover of Focus’ “Hocus Pocus” with Corn Mo (Corn Mo was the opening band…or opening person, whatever. He was a little – strange – like a cross between Meatloaf and Elton John with an accordion, but he had an amazing singing voice. I don’t remember being this impressed with someone’s live singing voice since I saw No Doubt open for Public Enemy a zillion years ago. He did that thing where when he started to sustain and crescendo on a note he pulled away from the microphone and it still got louder. Yeah.)

They didn’t play “Sleeping in the Flowers”, alas, but it was still a good show. I was really glad I went. They did this really powerful wall of sound stuff that kind of distorted some of the songs from what I was used to, and made the lyrics impossible to hear (so it was good I knew most of them already) but which was really immersive. I know that large portions of the crowd were screaming along with the lyrics, but I can tell you I didn’t hear the audience at all, they were unable to overcome the amped stage sound. TMBG had a decent light show to accompany their music, but remained four accessible guys dressed in jeans and t-shirts rocking out. It was great, the perfect show for me now in my dotage. I’m not saying Rock in Rio wasn’t awesome when I went to it, but I’d rather chew off my own hand than go to something like that now.

I love St. Louis because I can go someplace comfortable and see one of my favorite bands. I want to live here forever.

iTunes says I was listening to Au Contraire from the album The Spine by They Might Be Giants when I posted this. I have it rated 3 stars.


Thu 14th Jul 2005 at 2:24 pm

Have you seen "Gigantic"? I can’t find it anywhere but the review I tore out of it years ago calls "Birdhouse" "their masterpiece" and mentions the high point of the movie being them performing it on the Tonight Show with Doc Severinsen’s band in 1989. I would love to see that. http://www.imdb.com/title/t

If you’re in a concert-going way, for easygoing bands with grownup fans, and you enjoy the audience singing along at specific times (as with the countless screaming Argonauts), I cannot recommend Eddie From Ohio enough. "Old Dominion" and (especially) "The Three Fine Daughters of Farmer Brown" are big audience-lovin’ songs, and since they’re technically a folk/bluegrass band they play a lot of free fair/festival dates all summer long.

Thu 14th Jul 2005 at 5:05 pm

theres always a congo line at a tmbg show. In fact I would have asked about it if you hadn’t mentioned one, but since you did I’ll just have to say .. damn straight.

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