They Might Be Giants @ The National 03.11.10

Thanks to my friend Patrick, I’ve seen They Might Be Giants [TMBG if you’re in the know] at least 15 times since the mid 1990’s, maybe more but I lost count. I had not seen them in concert though since a show at the now defunct Toad’s Place in October 2007, so, I was really looking forward to seeing them again at what I consider to be the best live music venue in the city, The National.

That it was a show where the classic ‘Flood’ album would be played in its entirety was simply a nice bonus.

John Flansburgh and John Linnel and their bandmates opened with ‘Meet The Elements’ and then, in a truly strange move, they played the opus ‘Fingertips’ second! Now, if you’re familiar with the album ‘Apollo 18, you know that ‘Fingertips’ closes that record, and is actually twenty-one ‘songs’ that are each about ten seconds long, so it makes for a very disjointed but fun listen. I’ve seen TMBG play ‘Fingertips’ as an encore several times, and the crowd is usually in on the fun and singing along. Hearing it as the second song in a set though left me with my jaw open in surprise; I know and love the medley, but it was just played so early I don’t think the crowd knew what to do with it.

After a few more songs from newer albums, it was time for ‘Flood’ to begin…or in this case end, as the band decided to play the album in reverse order, starting with ‘Road Movie To Berlin’ and ending with the hit ‘Birdhouse in Your Soul’. That made things interesting.

Anytime you play an album in its entirety that’s not a concept album, it’s going to lead to some strange pacing for a live show, but to their credit, TMBG always kept it fun and entertaining, even if they may be tired of playing these songs [which are now twenty years old] when they’ve written material since then that, in some cases, is better.

But, these are the songs the fans want to hear [except maybe for ‘Hot Cha’, but that’s just me]. Highlights included ‘Sapphire Bullets of Love’, a song I’ve only heard them sing live at a ‘Flood’ show. Really, this song should be featured in their live set more often; one of my favorites by them. Also, before they ‘flipped’ the album over to play side one in reverse order, they played ‘What Is A Shooting Star’ with the help of two very cute sock puppets. Perhaps though the highlight of the show and the memory I’ll take away from the night was when they began ‘Lucky Ball and Chain’, and Flansburgh truly forgot the words. They tried it twice and each time he sang the last verse lyric instead of the opening verse lyric. ‘Should we move along?’ Flans asked Linnel. ‘Yes we should.’ And with that they tore into ‘Birdhouse.’

So, it may not have been the entire ‘Flood’ album [hopefully Flans gets the teleprompter he asked for in time for the next ‘Flood’ show] but it was a very fun, nostalgic evening.

I must also mention the opener for the evening’s show, Jonathan Coulton. He played a great set of humorous songs with lyrics featuring robots, zombies, dolls and the pains of adolescent love. I did not know who he was before the show, but now I wonder how I missed out, and I’m a fan for life. I bought his live CD/DVD at the merch table, and I can’t wait for him to return.

So it was a great show, with two great acts at a great venue. Seems since Richmond got The National, more and more of those kinds of nights are happening. I can’t wait for the next one.