Sunday, May 29, 2011

TV on the Radio at the Music Box, 5/11/11

It's not exactly remarkable or controversial to lay claim to TV on the Radio as one of your favorite bands these days, but sometimes obvious is obvious for a reason. They're really, really good, and their newest release, Nine Types of Light, certainly hasn't done anything to dampen my feelings about them. However, their live shows can be a bit more hit and miss. With five permanent members and a touring horn section, it's a lot of moving parts for the soundboard and acoustics to deal with--sometimes too much. At the Music Box though, they went back to basics and played probably the best set I've ever seen from them.

A couple years ago, I talked about how I thought Wilco had established themselves as "our best American band," mostly because I thought it sounded cool and was still in the honeymoon stage with their latest record (and was rightly taken to task for it in the comments). That title wouldn't mean any more now than it did then, but if I had to choose I would go with TV on the Radio. Their inventiveness with soundscapes, and the fusion of rock and funk and electronic genres really make them stand out. There's always a lot going on, a lot to hear and discover upon multiple listens. I mention this because, at this particular show, they decided the fundamental rock spirit of the songs was the most important element, ditching the horns entirely. It resulted in a bracing hour-plus of mass dancing and singing.

The set began with the opening track from their previous album, Dear Science, then went into a killer one-two of "Caffeinated Consciousness" and "The Wrong Way," lead singer Tunde Adebimpe bouncing across the stage during the latter. Their songs always take on a slightly different energy and identity live, but the oldest tracks like "The Wrong Way" and "Satellite" definitely benefit the most from being sped up and rocked out. "Red Dress" sounded even more angry and bombastic, despite the lack of the studio version's horns. Instead of showcasing the new album--released just a month before--the band chose to draw evenly from their entire catalogue, and while I would have loved to hear guitarist Kyp Malone freak the hell out on "No Future Shock," I think it was a good choice. I can't remember the last show that I "danced" so much at (in quotes because my particular style of rocking out can only be called dancing under the most generous of circumstances).

My one complaint would be that after an expertly crafted main set, culminating in the punky "Repetition" and their biggest hit and best song, "Wolf Like Me," the encore seemed to want to start over from scratch. "A Method" is always welcome, and I love "DLZ," but some of the crazy energy was lost. Still, in the wake of the recent death of their bassist Gerard Smith, they managed to put together one of the best performances I've seen from them. I can think of no better tribute to their fallen friend.

Set List: Halfway Home / Caffeinated Consciousness / The Wrong Way / Blues From Down Here / Will Do / Province / Red Dress / Dreams / Young Liars / Staring at the Sun / Repetition / Wolf Like Me

Encore: A Method / DLZ / Satellite

Photo by Timothy Norris, OC Weekly

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