Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Revivalists Decree Brooklyn Bowl Show Year's Best

When I saw Galactic enrapture Terminal 5 earlier this year, they were accompanied on vocals by a man named David Shaw. I was flabbergasted at how such a booming, soulful voice could come from this super-lanky whiteboy. So when I found out that Shaw's band, the Revivalists, were headlining Brooklyn Bowl, I knew I had to go.

Halfway through the opening number "Catching Fireflies," I learned that the rest of the Revivalists were on par with the spectacle of Shaw. The stage was flanked by two of the New Orleans band's liveliest members, Ed Williams on pedal steel and Rob Ingraham on saxophone. Williams often leaned so hard into his instrument that it teetered dangerously on two legs, while Ingraham whirled his woodwind around to amp up the other half of the room. Although their sound would be classified as rock, it was definitely imbued with that NOLA party attitude. Most songs were rife with call-and-response sections and just dancey enough to have everyone grooving on a Friday night. Welcoming us into "Chase's House," David removed his button-down shirt to reveal a white V-neck. "This is probably the funnest show we've played in a long time. My cheeks hurt from smiling. Straight up," he admitted.

The show may have been opened by 14-year-old guitar prodigy, Bobby Paltauf, but the Revivalists introduced to the stage an even younger axeplayer, 10-year-old Brandon Niederauer. Although it would be trite to say that they whipped the crowd into a frenzy as they tore into "Whipping Post," it would also be entirely accurate. Young Niederauer closed his eyes like an old bluesman, his fingers moving nimbly along the fretboard as he traded licks with Williams and Zack Feinberg. "How do you follow that?" asked a stunned Shaw, taking a rare break between songs. They rightfully chose to pull back a bit with "Soulfight." Just six songs after his initial review, Shaw clarified, "So I've gotta say this. It's definitely the funnest show we've played in a long time." Having played for almost two hours, the band closed out the set with fan favorites "Appreciate Me II" and "Criminal."

They couldn't stay away for long, however. "Best show all year for sure. Definitely best crowd," confirmed David. The Revivalists launched into the rap/rock "All in the Family" to snag one last batch of participation from the audience. As the tune neared its end, Shaw shouted, "Are you ready for this, Brooklyn?" I don't think any of us were. David peeled off his t-shirt, and they stampeded into "Bulls on Parade." Let me tell you, you've never heard the song like this. With powerful blasts of bari sax and Tom Morello's solo played on lap steel, it consummated an already terrific night of music. It may even end up on my best performances of the year list, right beside "Does It Really Make a Difference," which Shaw sang at Terminal 5.

THE REVIVALISTS - 11.22.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL (2 hours, 10 minutes)

Catching Fireflies / Stand Up / Concrete (Fish Out of Water) / When I'm Able / Chase's House > Sunny Days / Bullet Proof Vest / Not Turn Away > Common Cents / Navigate Below > Upright / Keep Goin' / Whipping Post (feat. Brandon Niederauer) / Soulfight / Soul's Too Loud / Two Ton Wrecking Ball / Appreciate Me II / Criminal

All in the Family > Bulls on Parade

Friday, November 22, 2013

Incidental Animals Play Their Second Show Ever at Brooklyn Bowl

Weddings bring people together.  ALO were hired to play a wedding event in NYC, but with Zach Gill on tour with Jack Johnson, Kyle Hollingsworth of the String Cheese Incident was tapped to man the keys.  Then the group was filled out with the horn section of Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman, compliments of Trey Anastasio Band.  The group, known as Incidental Animals, decided to book a few gigs to practice, and performed their second show ever on Thursday at Brooklyn Bowl.

The concert was opened by a Fort Lauderdale 5-piece called the Heavy Pets.  The Pets began with "Xylophone," which reminded me of Phish's "Free."  And while the tune may have crossed the ten-minute mark, the jam never progressed into a different headspace.  "We've got a brand new song for you guys," Jeff Lloyd announced, turning the vocal duties over to keyboardist Jim Wuest.  Unfortunately, Wuest turned his vocal duties over to a vocoder, rendering the lyrics unintelligible.  Ditching the vocal effects, "Stay the Night" went smoother: real lite FM baby-makin' music.  But the band claimed it was their 900th performance, so I expected much more experimentation.  "Help Me Help You" did feature an unexpectedly funky breakdown, but that was quickly expunged by guitar noise.  The song received a helpful upgrade from guests Cressman and Hartswick, who took turns soloing.  That would've been the ideal place to end the set, but they continued with "Last Babies," a tune that did little more than suggest that Mike Garulli probably listens to a lot of Dispatch and Slightly Stoopid.

Incidental Animals kicked off their set with the SCI number, "Can't Wait Another Day."  Dan slathered something similar to "Barbeque" sauce onto the peppy island tune before taking it into a haunting, spacier world.  Once they emerged from the darkness, Jennifer brightened things up with her trumpet, stretching the song out to 13 minutes.  "We care about you.  That's why we take the time to tune," informed Dan, readying his guitar for the rarely played "I Wanna Feel It."  Hartswick took lead vocals on the most joyous "Piece of My Heart" I've ever heard.  Always a delight, "Try" was enhanced by the ladies, who played the I-Threes card, singing back the last word of each line of the chorus.

It was refreshing to witness the smiles across the stage as the musicians figured out how to gel, with Cressman and Hartswick arranging their horn parts on the fly.  The brass reinvigorated "Lady Loop," which was also intensified by Kyle's spooky Virus TI synthesizer.  
Having never seen Hollingsworth before, it was interesting to watch him work, mouthing along to the notes from his keyboards.  I got quite the kick out of imagining that the sounds were actually coming from his mouth.  Following "Naïve Melody," they played a fun Dan ditty I've never heard before, which I'll call "I Thought You Were My Friend."  Steve Adams finally got a chance to sing on "Falling Dominoes," and the girls proved they were just as talented minus their mouthpieces, as they traded verses on "Higher Ground" to finish out the set.

A minute later, the Animals returned.  "We got the OK to go another five hours straight," joked Kyle.  Jennifer ushered in a chill take on "Walls of Jericho" with a jazzy intro.  Once the song reached its climax, the band segued into
 the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)," the perfect choice to prep the dancefloor for Bowl Train.  Aside from getting married and hiring them yourself, the only way to see them is via the Relix stream recorded that evening.  So find that special someone, and do us all a favor. 

After the show, Lebo and I went across the street to the Wythe Hotel's rooftop bar to tape an interview for The Next Round, so look for that in the upcoming weeks.

INCIDENTAL ANIMALS - 11.21.13 - BROOKLYN BOWL (1 hour, 49 minutes)

Can't Wait Another Day / I Wanna Feel It / Piece of My Heart / Try > Shining Star > Try / Lady Loop > Let's Go Outside / This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) > Jam* > This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody) / I Thought You Were My Friend* / Falling Dominoes / Higher Ground > Gospel Jam* > Higher Ground

Walls of Jericho > Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Metric Reclaim History at Bowery Ballroom

Having rocked Madison Square Garden less than a week prior, Metric pleasantly surprised fans by announcing an intimate gig at the Bowery Ballroom, their first show at the venue since 2005.  Unfettered by both time and the pressure to gain Paramore fans, the band opened up the setlist, reaching back to revive seven Live It Out tracks.

With no support act, the band took the stage a little after 9pm to cheers from the crowd.  Emily Haines rubbed her hands together and placed them on her keyboard.  She began playing the first notes of "Nothing But Time," the slow-burner a 
far cry from the torrent of MSG's "Black Sheep."  It was obvious Haines was more relaxed, all the way down to her outfit.  Donning a thin black blouse under an unbuttoned tan military shirt, she wasn't relying on sparkles to catch your eyes, though she did sport some pot leaf bling on the sleeve.  After two more Synthetica tunes, Metric began their plunge into the past with the gentle "Ending Start."  "Why is the Bowery Ballroom still my favorite place to play?" Haines questioned.  "Empty" was a standout, Emily oscillating her head vigorously as the audience sang along.  Haines took some time to express her feelings on how the band was somehow left out of the indie music history book despite being in its Williamsburg epicenter in 2001.  It seemed like she was lamenting their exclusion, but clarified when asked what they would've done differently: "You know, fuckin' nothing, man."  More set highlights included a "Patriarch on a Vespa/Handshakes" mash-up, a Jimmy and Emily "Love is a Place", and a stellar performance of "Clone."

Jimmy and Emily returned to the stage for an encore, and Emily shared her optimism for the new mayor.  "This song is dedicated to the end of stop and frisk," she said, ready to begin "The Police & the Private."  As it turns out, fans aren't the only ones who get annoyed by iPads at concerts.  Catching sight of a tablet in the front row, Emily abruptly halted.  "Yo, yo, yo, I can't sing with that thing recording me.  It's gonna shirk me out.  I hate this shit, man," she said.  The iPad was confiscated with approval from the audience, and the duo proceeded.  Josh Winstead and Joules Scott-Key rejoined them for "Too Little Too Late," "Glass Ceiling," and an impressive "Gold Guns Girls" that saw Shaw, looking the part of Indiana Jones in his hat and vest, ripping into his solo to melt faces like he'd just lifted the lid off the Ark of the Covenant.  The rhythm section departed once more, and Haines announced, "We'll leave you with a lullaby.  Did you get everything you wanted from your Metric show?"  More cheers (aside from my roommate, who really wanted to hear "Black Sheep" again).  Shaw and Haines finished things with an acoustic "Gimme Sympathy," encouraging the crowd to accompany them.  Smiling, Emily looked around the room and remarked, "Well, I don't know what it is, but it's ours."  To which I would pose the question: How many of their turn-of-the-millennium Williamsburg compatriots are even together, let alone still making compelling music?

METRIC - 11.19.13 - BOWERY BALLROOM (1 hour, 27 minutes)

Nothing But Time / Youth Without Youth > Speed the Collapse / Ending Start / Empty / Patriarch on a Vespa > Handshakes / Help I'm Alive / Love is a Place / Synthetica / Clone / Breathing Underwater / Sick Muse

The Police & the Private / Too Little Too Late / Glass Ceiling / Gold Guns Girls / Gimme Sympathy

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Metric & Hellogoodbye Make a Great Case for Openers

I hope you got to Madison Square Garden for the Paramore show early enough to see the opening acts.  It's hard to believe that just three months ago, I was within a few yards of Hellogoodbye in the backyard of an eyeglasses store, and last night I was hundreds of feet away in the nosebleeds of MSG.  (Tangent: The venue's new flying bridges are terrible.  The beachball-esque ceiling, which droops to the scoreboard in the center, is without a doubt, the Garden's most iconic feature, and now it's obscured by two monstrosities.  It's absolutely shocking to me that the architects would sacrifice that view to the tune of 430 more seats.)  While I'm sure the bridges also disrupt the room's acoustics, the sound mix for "...And Everything Becomes a Blur" was the muddiest I've heard in the building.  But perhaps there wasn't enough time to soundcheck properly, as it seemed every member in the band also had a keyboard in front of them.  "This is a kind-of old song," said Forrest Kline, gearing up "When We First Met" and the directing the audience to clap along for the pre-chorus.  They followed with "Swear You're in Love," which set up a pattern of injecting more sounds into the second verses of the tunes.  "This is an old song," explained Kline before "Here (in Your Arms)."  After so much avoidance, it was nice to see Forrest embracing his electro-pop past, employing a vocoder and deviating little from its recorded version, save for some sweet guitar licks in the second verse.  He shared vocal duties with the arena on the final chorus, the line "whispers, 'Hello, I've missed you quite terribly'" anything but a whisper.  For "Just Don't Let Go Just Don't," he grabbed his microphone, which was attached to a cable of blinking lights, and showed off some nerdy dance moves at the edge of the stage.  They finished the short set with their most recent album's title cut, "(Everything is) Debatable."  "I wish we could sit and chat all night," Kline remarked sincerely, and retreated backstage.

With an ebullient tide of distortion, Metric powered into "Black Sheep."  They may have been the middle act, but the band obviously set out to prove (and did) that they were capable of headlining the historic venue.  Emily Haines was an effervescent vision in her sparkly outfit, which gave way to a pair of shapely legs.  It's no secret how she stays in such fantastic shape.  The stage is her gym.  Never content just to stand still, she spent the entire concert hopping from foot to foot in an aerobic dance.  She was an absolute delight to watch, especially little things like pulling her microphone away to extend each "miiiiind" in "Youth Without Youth," or the tambourine theatrics to emphasize the crescendoes in "Help I'm Alive."  "Synthetica" was probably my favorite performance of the night, with Jimmy Shaw's clean guitar lines shining brightly until the dense layers all forged into a dizzying climax under the strobe lights.  I didn't want it to stop, but as it does on the album, the tune ended abruptly.  "Breathing Underwater" saw Emily jabbing her tambourine triumphantly into the sky to punctuate each "Is this my life?"  Haines strapped on a six-string to play rhythm on "Gold Guns Girls," and Shaw came center stage to rip into a soaring solo.  Metric finished their set by giving the hallowed arena some "Stadium Love."  "Thank you, Hayley!  Thank you, New York City!" shouted Emily as she left the stage, Jimmy's guitar still feeding back to mix with the cheers.  Yes, thank you, Hayley Williams, for picking such talented bands to open for you.

HELLOGOODBYE - 11.13.13 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (26 minutes, 11 seconds)

SET - 
...And Everything Becomes a Blur / When We First Met / Swear You're in Love / Here (in Your Arms) / Just Don't Let Go Just Don't / (Everything is) Debatable

METRIC - 11.13.13 - MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (38 minutes, 23 seconds)

Black Sheep / Youth Without Youth / Help I'm Alive / Synthetica / Breathing Underwater / Sick Muse / Gold Guns Girls / Stadium Love

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Missed Phil Lesh at Jazz & Colors, But I Did Get a Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

The Jazz & Colors Festival celebrated its second year in Central Park on Saturday.  Sadly, my photographer Carrie and I got a late start on the day, and only made it for the final 45 minutes of the event.  Most of that time was spent attempting to match the skyline in the pic of Phil Lesh, Eric Krasno, and Joe Russo I'd seen on Jambase.  Little did I know that the trio had already called it quits after a brief half-hour set consisting of two jams and a cover of "Get Back."  The other thirty bands participating were supposed to be following the same setlist, though you wouldn't have known it if you were there.  Aside from the bands being too spread out for a continuous listening experience, the different configurations of instruments and the improvisational nature of jazz combined to make each stop along the path and entirely different show.

Starting at the Pond on the park's southeastern corner, we passed right in front of Walking Distance, who were stationed at one of Central Park's most scenic vistas.  Though several trees in the area were still green, the view was accented by splashes of yellow, red, and purple.  We made our way though the park, passing rock-climbing children and an imitation Big Bird posing for photos.  I caught a bit of the Hot Future Five in the Dairy, but their position under the roof wasn't conducive to taking in the autumnal scenery.  Eventually we were able to follow our ears to the Naumberg Bandshell for Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.  Situated on the stage, this was the largest group of musicians I saw during the day.  They had attracted quite the crowd due to their prominent spot, and people were dancing to the music.  We heard more sounds coming from the Bethesda Terrace, but upon discovery, it was just some band of gypsies.  We retraced our steps to go meet our friend Maritza back at the Pond.  On the way, we happened upon Frank London's Klezmer Brass All Stars at the bottom of the Mall.  It was hard to get a good view of the players, so we continued back to catch the final notes from Walking Distance.

I wished I'd gotten there earlier to hear more (especially the Phil Lesh set), but now I know for next year.  Which means yes, I would go again next year.  I'd recommend they cram the park with even more bands though, allowing the music to never stop.  The three of us extended our autumn-themed journey with a trip on the Staten Island Ferry to NYC's lone Dairy Queen for a pumpkin pie blizzard.  Despite the wonderful fall foliage I'd seen earlier, the Statue of Liberty in front of the blood red sunset was my favorite view of the day.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Jenny Owen Youngs Unseats the Crowd at BAM Café

Jenny Owen Youngs played a free show on Friday as part of the BAM Café Live concert series.  The last time I was at BAM was for the Joy Formidable, and the staff had removed the chairs and tables to allow the crowd to get closer to the action (and the band to venture into the crowd).  But on Friday, this JOY was presented with the formidable challenge of uniting a room of seated patrons organized in the same configuration as at a comedy show I'd seen there.  While the ushers insisted on keeping a chasm of floor space between the seats and the stage, and the building's lofty ceilings served to amplify the chatter coming from the back bar, Youngs didn't let it affect her.

Assisted by her friendly demeanor, Jenny is so instantly likable because she puts so much passion into her vocals onstage.  She's capable of both shouting uninhibitedly like a punk or cooing sweetly, and she often does so within the same line.  Fronting a power trio that included bassist Mike Tuccillo and drummer Elliot Jacobson, she charged into the set with "Love for Long."  Following the sea shanty stylings of "Clean Break" and the poppy "Your Apartment," JOY threw everyone for a curveball when she revealed the next number would be "Colors of the Wind" from Disney's Pocahontas.  She requested that we accompany her: "If you blank on anything, you can just go 'bobcat, otter, rainstorm.'  You know, nature images."  From my seat in the back, I didn't really hear all the voices of the mountains, but Jenny and band successfully morphed the song to fit her sound, coming across like the version Pocahontas would've sung once England-bound on John Smith's ship.

A few fans who had seats in the front row began trickling into the space directly in front of the stage, but to be sure, Jenny still had to battle with the bar.  Unfortunately, the quiet "Why You Fall" fell victim to the rebounding conversations, but the audience was recaptured by Tuccillo's growling fuzz bass in a beefier take on "Led to the Sea."  Jenny took a moment to share the hilarious, rambling introductions of her bandmates, including referring to Mike as a "lover of dogs."  "I've been playing a lot of solo shows recently, so I haven't been introducing people," she admitted.  In fact, the last time I saw her perform was a solo opening spot at Webster Hall, where she played Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."  While this time it wasn't exactly the singalong that the crowd of anxious-to-sing-anything Frank Turner fans at Webster made it, Youngs utilized the band to manifest a pretty cool live fadeout.  After the cover, she dismissed the boys, but she didn't want to be alone.  "Are you guys feeling like participating?" Youngs polled the crowd.  She tutored us on the gentle chorus to "Firefight," and though muffled, I heard the refrain rising from the tables.  She invited Elliot and Mike back to close out the show with three of my favorites, "Great Big Plans," "Pirates," and "Last Person."  By the end of the hour-long set, the space in the front was packed with dancers of all ages.

JENNY OWEN YOUNGS - 11.08.13 - BAM CAFÉ (59 minutes, 30 seconds)

Love for Long / Clean Break / Your Apartment / Colors of the Wind / Why You Fall / Start & Stop / Led to the Sea / Ring of Fire / Sleep Machine / Firefight / Great Big Plans / Pirates / Last Person

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Night at the Rockwood with Grey Reverend, Taurus, & Fancy Colors

I made the rounds at Rockwood Music Hall last night, visiting Stages 1, 2, and 3.  The first stop was Stage 3 for the sold-out Grey Reverend performance.  L.D. Brown a.k.a. Grey Reverend has quite the captivating backstory.  While making headway as a jazz guitar soloist, Brown began to notice problems with the dexterity in his hands.  He was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called focal dystonia that affects fine motor skills.  Rather than give up his instrument, Brown turned lemons into lemonade, and adjusted his playing to suit a minimalistic folk approach.  The combination of how he uses his fingers (including his thumb) on the neck and off-the-cuff interesting tuning results in his anomalous tone.  This unpredictability went both ways, from the stirring ring of the final chord in "Altruistic Holiday" to the muddled middle of "The Payoff."  "One by One" featured the most complex of the guitar parts, requiring both rhythm and lead.  At its end, Brown sighed, "That was exhausting."  The great unifier to the songs was Brown's haunting voice, which could somehow simultaneously sound meek and powerful.  The audience was dead silent for each number, entranced as they pondered the thoughts in his lyrics.  His dry, witty banter in between tunes made him all the more endearing.  "I'm gonna take things down just a little bit," he said.  "If you didn't think things could get any more down."  Before the final song, "Sunday Soldiers," a loud thump came from the rear of the room by the door.  "Is everyone alright back there?" L.D. questioned.  "Someone just passed out from the awesomeness," he added with a laugh.

I popped into Stage 1 for the first time in years to catch a little of Taurus, who are currently in the midst of a month-long Thursday night residency at the club.  Bassist Chris Morrissey was leading the band through a grooving new tune when I entered.  They followed it with a song from their first album, which had a more alt-rock Foo Fighters vibe.  The last number I caught was another unreleased one, but if I had to guess, I'd say it's still in the germination stage.  While the drums and bass proceeded like an upbeat jazz section, the guitars fought over whether they were playing country or psychedelic rock.  Throw Morrissey's pop vocals on top, and you had four genres in an all-out brawl.  That space has always been a little claustrophobic for me, so I made my way next door.

I've been a big fan of Jupiter One since 2009, and I learned at Kishi Bashi's Irving Plaza concert that the other members are now in a band called Fancy Colors.  When I walked into Stage 2, I saw Zac Colwell, but I was surprised to find Dave Heilman absent.  In his place was Adam Wall, wearing sunglasses with one lens missing.  "Tonight, me and Adam are presenting the songs like this," informed Colwell.  "We're experimenting."  And experiment they did.  The first song began with Zac playing a flute and a saxophone, some fairly unusual instruments for a rock band, but then Adam trumped the weirdness by blowing into a large conch shell.  They followed with "The Way You Walk Away," a more conventional tune with a choppy riff and super-smooth hook.  "The Last One" was an extended cut, ranging from gentle plucking to abrasive Flaming Lips-esque drones, before it culminated in a sax solo that charmed a wine-swilling patron into an interpretive dancer.  She grabbed a partner for "Driftin' on a Cloud," within which Colwell removed his saxophone's neck and used it as its own instrument.  At five songs, it was a brief set, but it capped off a night of truly intriguing music.

GREY REVEREND - 11.07.13 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL, STAGE 3 (1 hour, 6 minutes)

I Hope You Get Killed* / Altruistic Holiday / My Hands / Nightingale / The Payoff / One by One / Forsake / Into Pieces / Belafonte / Like Mockingbirds / A Hero's Lie / Everlasting / Sunday Soldiers

FANCY COLORS - 11.07.13 - ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL, STAGE 2 (39 minutes, 30 seconds)

I'm a Ladder* / The Way You Walk Away / The Donkey of Anxiety* / The Last One / Driftin' on a Cloud

Sunday, November 3, 2013

They Might Be Giants Celebrate Album 1 at Terminal 5

On Saturday, I saw They Might Be Giants for the fifth and final time of this year.

Opening the show was Miniature Tigers, who I've followed since their 2008 full-length, 
Tell It to the Volcano.  By the time I saw them at CMJ that fall, I was well-acquainted with their songs.  I consider it my favorite album that sounds like anyone could've made it, which is a testament to their knack for melody and unconventional lyrical topics.  However, as the years have progressed, the band has morphed into a sort of Pet Shop Boys tribute act.  Paired with acoustic guitar chords, Charlie Brand's reedy voice was endearing, but set against the polished synths of their current material, he just sounds like someone who can't sing.  Brand expressed his excitement for They Might Be Giants: "I hope they play 'Fingertips.'  That's my personal favorite."  Yeah, and I wish you'd play "Cannibal Queen."  With no need to strum a guitar anymore, Brand has been relegated to awkwardly walking around during the songs, or resorting to exhibitionism like grabbing bandmate Rick Schaier by the shoulders to kiss him on the lips at the end of "Gold Skull."  While the big sound of "Oblivious" and a line about Aladdin on VHS in "We Used to Be the Shit" were pleasing, nothing was as original or spirited as the tunes on their first album.  They played nothing from it.

They Might Be Giants, however, performed their entire first LP.  "Released in 1986 to almost complete silence," according to John Flansburgh, their eponymous debut came to be affectionately referred to as The Pink Album, due to the pink background of the cover.  Listening to the vinyl in preparation for the concert, I realized just how influential a record it is.  It's difficult to imagine that the Elephant 6 Collective could've even existed had TMBG not paved the way in Pink.  Ever since the fantastic Celebrate Brooklyn gig, when They revealed that They would be playing the album in its entirety at Terminal 5, I was excited to finally see some of my favorites live.  And then came the announcement two weeks ago that it would be their last US tour date until 2015, taking things to a new level and causing me to put too much pressure on the show to be perfect.

TMBG took the stage as a different band in "The Mesopotamians," and quickly launched into the song that has traditionally opened their shows this year, "You're on Fire."  But fans like myself don't go to show after show just for the catchy songs; the witty banter between and sometimes even within those songs is what truly makes a TMBG show unique.  Flansburgh referred to "Tesla" as "almost all true.  This is like the Where's Waldo of songs.  I think if you listen to it, you can figure out the part that's not true."  After "When Will You Die," everything went dark.  Silence except for an answering machine recording of a woman named Gloria having a very hard time understanding what exactly They Might Be Giants means.  The infamous Dial-a-Song message primed the air nicely for the main event.  The two Johns, Flans on guitar and Linnell on accordion, returned to the stage, and began "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die."  This meant two things: 1) They wouldn't be slaves the to the tracklisting, and more importantly, 2) Linnell would be playing a lot more accordion!  Their backup band returned for "She's an Angel," nicely countrified by some slide guitar from JF.  Two minutes into "Hide Away Folk Family," They commanded the crowd to "Scream as if you're in Hell," which was fun, but its best moment occurred when the Johns tried to approximate the rewound vocals at the end of the number.  If you were listening closely enough, you would've heard JL sneak in a "Meryl Streep."  "Boat of Car" followed, with Flans' vocals pogoing from Johnny Cash bass to Margaret Seiler mezzo-soprano.  As JF procured a harmonica for "32 Footsteps," we all learned that the instrument is symmetrical, so that you can accidentally play it upside-down.  This lead to a strange riff on adult-onset Alzheimer's, which Linnell tagged with "As soon as the show starts, we'll talk about it."  He finally put down his squeezebox and resumed his post at the keys for a rocking "Youth Culture Killed My Dog."  Before "Number Three," Flansburgh announced, "This is in the key of F."  "For those of you playing along," Linnell jested.  He switched to bass clarinet for "Hotel Detective," and then it was time for the tune I was looking forward to the most: "Rhythm Section Want Ad."  The first verse felt rushed, but everything was reconciled with an excellent "Powerhouse" section, Linnell banging on the keyboard as Dan Miller made his guitar sing like a Warner Bros assembly line.  It was my highlight of the night.

While the band teased Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," the Johns headed to stage left to stick their hands into the Avatars of They: two sock puppets that sing songs but are mainly known for their repartee.  "Toddler Hiway" was the selection they'd been given; in fact, the shortest song on the album.  "The first thing I thought was, 'The fuck?'" said the shafted Blue Avatar (JF).  The duo dropped their puppets for the bizarre "Chess Piece Face" and got the crowd singing on "Alienation's for the Rich," particularly the line about Miller High Life.  "Thank you!  We're gonna play a song from our first album," laughed Linnell.  They charged into "Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes," segueing into "Absolutely Bill's Mood."  The record's biggest single and always-welcome setlist addition, "Don't Let's Start," completed the string of first record cuts.  After the obligatory "Damn Good Times," JL finally revealed his true feelings on the 11th president: "He was a dick." It was one of the more energetic takes on "James K. Polk" I've heard, and the potency carried over into the caffeinated version of "Black Ops."  "Doctor Worm" finished the set, although it lacked the punch of the horns, not to mention the fact that Dan Miller's mic wasn't on for half the song.

There was still one track remaining from Pink: "The Day."  Thankfully, the Johns came back to play it.  I'd noticed throughout the evening that the crowd had seemed divided, and this confirmed it.  Split down the middle by a too-tall guy near the front, the left side of the room waved their giant arms like trees, while those to the right stood idly by.  John and John then went to "Istanbul," their "take me back" interaction developing into a monk chant.  They wrapped up the encore with "Nanobots," Linnell facing the audience, while the band turned their backs to blend into the video projection.  After more applause, the members reclaimed their stage positions.  "We love this town.  We're thinking of staying," joked Linnell.  If there was ever a song to unite the segregated crowd, it was "Birdhouse in Your Soul," and it worked like a charm.  I was holding out for "The End of the Tour," but "Birdhouse" was an effective closer.  The band didn't reference their upcoming touring hiatus onstage at all.  I guess I would've rather not known about the 2014 no-show policy until after the concert.  I would've approached it differently; not as a farewell, but for what it was: a charming celebration of a great album.

MINIATURE TIGERS - 11.02.13 - TERMINAL 5 (30 minutes)

Never Gonna Let You Go* / Better Apart* / Gold Skull / Cleopatra / We Used to Be the Shit* / Oblivious* / Angel Bath / Sex on the Regular

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - 11.02.13 - TERMINAL 5 (1 hour, 35 minutes)

The Mesopotamians / You're on Fire / Tesla / When Will You Die > Untitled / I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die / She's an Angel / Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head / Hide Away Folk Family / Boat of Car / 32 Footsteps / Youth Culture Killed My Dog / Number Three / (She Was a) Hotel Detective / Rhythm Section Want Ad / Paranoid (tease) / Toddler Hiway / Chess Piece Face / Alienation's for the Rich / Nothing's Gonna Change My Clothes > Absolutely Bill's Mood / Everything Right is Wrong Again / Rabid Child / Don't Let's Start / Damn Good Times > James K. Polk / Black Ops / Doctor Worm

The Day / Istanbul (Not Constantinople) / Nanobots

Birdhouse in Your Soul