And so it came to pass that Sophia, Angie and I all attended the They Might Be Giants appearance in Charlotte at the Visulite Theatre on June 14th. Having seen them 5 or 6 times previously, Soph has entertained me with promises of a great show and a varied selection of songs from their *extensive* catalog. I went in prepared to be indoctrinated into the school of happy TMBG fans who all jump around, sing and clap their hands like ecstatic kids who have just found a radio station playing their favorite song.
The venue was nice, air conditioned and not at all cramped. We had a very easy time grabbing a couple beers and just setting up camp right on stage right, directly below John Linnell's keyboard rig. They came on at quarter to 10 and played for over 2 hours, with 2 encores. I began the night expecting three things: good entertainment from a band that's been around since 1982, a good live mix on the instrumentation, and maybe to hear a few songs I knew well enough to sing along to. I was more than satisfied as these guys made quick work of any naysayers, immediately ripping the stage wide open with "Doctor Worm" and "Why Does The Sun Shine?" (the latter of which contained some hilarious bits about Decepticons, and more Decepticons). It's hard to believe how old these guys are, and even harder to think about a band that made it through the eighties AND the nineties completely intact - untarnished by record industry pressures, production sounds, lineup changes, drugs/alcohol, anything you can think of actually. TMBG have always existed happily inside their own little musical universe where not much sounds like them except the bands that grew up listening to their records. In fact it's pretty amazing how sincere and genuine the whole show was - right down to John and John going back and forth about how to proceed with songs, as it was clear they didn't really rehearse *everything* and were totally comfortable just goofing off - especially since this is a band that has basically made rocking shows and writing pop songs their job, and they do that job perfectly.
The mixing on the band was extremely good. Tight and loud, but not like, ear-shattering. It made a really big difference in songs like "Ana Ng" and "Particle Man" to have a really prominent bass and drum sound. Plus their lead guitarist was a very proficient guy on his own, playing both electric and acoustic guitars, keyboard, synth and even doing some vocals. The high quality of the Johns' compositional talents was completely enhanced through the lens of this super-tight band. I mean can you even imagine how many songs this band has to know how to play at ALL TIMES? Not to mention they have to be good at improvising too. Kudos to them.
It's also worth noting that TMBG's catalog of mostly shorter (under 3 minute) tracks worked to their advantage as they just rip through song after song, hook after hook. It's hard to imagine ANYONE going to a show like this and getting bored or not having even a little fun. The crowd were all very nice people, from the couple I bumped into and spoke with. They all seemed varied in age as well as social-circle - everyone from preppy khaki-pant parents to tattooed shirtless punks to nerdy bearded guys with long hair (yours truly included) was bouncing around, and singing along with almost every line of every song! I should hope I end up so lucky, to be in my forties and have a clear connection with FOUR generations of people without any artistic compromise. These guys are one of the best bands I've ever seen live without a doubt and even if you're not as familiar or not really a fan, you're missing out if you don't go see them when they come around!
Finally, below is the ONE photo of the show I took - Mr. Linnell playing his keyboard and singing. Pictured above my blog post is the very nifty sheet printed and taped to their mixer which reads "This Might Be An Input List".