We live in a time where if you mention comedy and music in the same sentence, it is assumed you are speaking of a comedy act that uses instruments in their stand-up routine — not that this is a bad thing. After all, we have had the privilege of seeing the rise of great musicians/comedians such as Flight of the Conchords, Bo Burnham, Paul and Storm, and many more. However, it is always great to see there are still bands touring successfully who are more musicians, but just so happen to be masters of comedy, wit, and cleverness. They Might Be Giants just might be one of this generation’s most important and national treasures in the music industry.
Even though the band frequents the area almost every time they come through Florida, the nearly sold-out crowd at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg was more than ready to hear one of their favorite groups. The crowd was jam-packed with people of all ages. On one side of was a 10-year-old daughter sitting on her mother’s lap in sheer joy, and on the other side was a retired married couple. Most of the audience members were millennials who grew up listening to the band’s music and continue to appreciate it to this day. I constantly wondered how many fans’ first exposure to the group was from watching Tiny Toon Adventures when they were kids.
The show began with the opening act known as “They Might Be Giants.” No. That is not a typo. Those in attendance were treated to two lengthy sets and an encore. The band even introduced themselves by saying, “Hello, we are the opening band!” Rarely would this receive such a big pop from the audience, but given the circumstances, this one was well deserved. Generally, I look forward to opening acts because it gives me an opportunity to discover new music I have never heard of before. However, with a band that has been together as long as TMBG have, and the amount of amazing songs they have accumulated, I couldn’t ask for a better two set show.
Throughout the course of the night, the Brooklyn band treated us to a show that was jam packed with songs across their 19-album discography. They played some of their more obscure songs but were definitely not short on the popular ones. Songs like “Dr. Worm,” “Science is Real,” and “I Love You For Psychological Reasons” received some of the loudest cheers of the night — while the hilarity of their take on Destiny Child’s song “Bills Bills Bills” made everyone in attendance grin. Guitarist and singer John Flansburgh noted that learning a song like that is tiring because it requires memorization.
Singer and multi-instrumentalist John Linnell switched between instruments throughout the evening including the keyboards, accordion, and bass clarinet. Yeah, I said a bass clarinet. Linnell’s unique voice can be picked out in a crowded room of singers and it was a pleasure hearing him sing in his nasally voice. His accordion playing made people more than excited, especially during the song that closed the second set, crowd favorite “Particle Man.”
The band took their time throughout the evening which would normally get a “Play a song already!” remark, but nobody felt the need to. That is how good TMBG is at getting the audience’s attention. One of the best parts of the night was when in the middle of one of their songs a phone ring could be heard through the speakers. The band stopped and Linnell apologized and said that he needed to take this call. Hilarity ensued while we find out that it is TMBG’s “manager” was calling from prison trying to convince the band to break him out of jail so he can be the new lead singer of AC/DC. This went on for a long period of improvisation that never got too tiring. I could have listened to them do this all night. However, the phone call ended abruptly and the band got back to finish the song.
While TMBG lack a sense of physical energy onstage, it is almost unnoticeable because of their charm and great crowd interaction. The band does a great job of giving the audience what they want — great tunes, a few laughs and a reason to see them every time they come into town. This amazing band continues to fill a giant piece of my heart and my love for music.
They Might Be Giants Concert Photos by S.T. Register.
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