TMBG First Avenue Poster
3/17 Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
3/18 Louisville, KY @ Mercury Ballroom
4/13 New Haven, CT @ College Street Music Hall
4/14 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
4/15 Pittsburgh, PA @ Mr. Small’s Theatre
4/17 Cincinnati, OH @ Madison Theater
4/19 Rochester, NY @ Anthology
4/20 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
4/21 Portland, ME @ State Theatre
4/22 Albany, NY @ The Egg
4/26 Northampton, MA @ Academy of Music
4/27 Boston, MA @ House of Blues
4/28 Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
It’s no secret that they’ve built up a massive fanbase since forming in 1982. Seeing how ravenous their fans reminded me of seeing the same kind of devotions from juggalos at an Insane Clown Posse show… except, of course, TMBG fans are well-dressed (bowties and sometime fez!) and promote that “Science is Real”.
Although the Thursday night show was advertised as doors opening at 8pm, it was not. Since the doors were delayed, TMBG delayed their start time about fifteen minutes.
The duo, John Flansburgh and John Linnell, is joined on stage by guitarist Dan Miller, Bassist Danny Weinkauf, drummer Marty Beller, and saxophonist/trumpeter Kurt Hoffman (of The Ordinaires). They played two sets, the first, being (mostly) the same on this entire tour. Most of the bands are on stage, and contains plenty of classic favorites like “Ana Ng”, “The Mesopotamians”, and recent favorites Destiny’s Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills”. The latter was a challenge from the Onion as one of the most difficult or impossible song to play live. Not only was challenge accepted, but John & John decided it’ll be one of their staple live songs.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a First Avenue’s show without their “First Avenue Stage Venue Song”, which they mentioned was their very first written Venue Song. Linnell lamented that so many venues are no longer around, 14 years later, but they were honored and will happily play “First Avenue Stage Venue Song” in celebration of the historic venue.
Before playing “Whistling In the Dark”, Linnell, with his clarinet, mentioned that they were in Mankato earlier, and he may have said, “I hate kids”, which, taken out of context, doesn’t sound good. He wanted to get the story out there, that he doesn’t hate kids. Flansburgh jumped in and added, “he hates everyone equally!”
After a long extended outro jam session for “Spy”, They Might Be Giants exited the stage for a 15 minute break. The DJ played some house music, and there was an odd video of Run DMC/Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”.
The second TMBG set was meant for diehard fans, starting with a quiet camp-like performance by John & John, and Marty on electronic percussion and school bell (for “Shoehorn with Teeth”).
The rest of the band joined the trio with “A Self Called Nowhere”, followed by one of their most popular cover, The Four Lads’ “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. Like Cub’s “New York City”, They Might Be Giants has a great record of taking semi-obscure songs, and making it popular (with a special TMBG flair).
After “Hearing Aid”, TMBG promoted their appearance at the upcoming JoCo Cruise 2019 (featuring Jonathan Coulton and Aimee Mann). It should be noted that Flansburgh produced Jonathan Coulton’s Artificial Heart album, and they together in 2011.
Each band member was introduced (followed by an extended solo on their respective instruments) before the penultimate song, “When Will You Die”.
TMBG ended their set with the popular “Particle Man”, but unexpected, in the middle of the song, they medley into Neil Diamond & Dolly Parton’s song “Here You Come Again”, and then returning to the last stanza of “Particle Man”.
The double encore was no surprise (at least to any diehard TMBG fans). They saved their most popular songs, which included “Birdhouse in Your Soul”, “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)”, and “Doctor Worm ”.
Like previous appearances, the rest of the band returned to the stage to hand out TMBG stickers to fans.
If you’re a TMBG fan (and I know you are), this is probably the best They Might Be Giants tour so far. There’s no opening band, it’s a solid three hours of TMBG. It actually may be too much TMBG for casual fans, but it hasn’t stopped them from selling out shows all across the country. I think my only complaint (and it’s a small one), is that there were just too many Flood songs. I know the album is their most popular album, but seven songs from Flood might have been too much, in my opinion. TMBG has 20 albums and various b-sides, Dial-A-Song, and compilations, they have other “hits” on different albums. Having said that, all of the Flood songs were really, really well-received by the audience, so no one else is complaining.
They Might Be Giants at First Avenue, Minneapolis (15 Mar 2018)