Festival Review: They Might Be Giants

They Might Be Giants’ current Australian tour has included a few two-night stands in which they showcase different decades of their musical output. With a career that spans almost forty years and hundreds of songs released, there’s plenty of material to cover.

By
One for the fans
Overall
3

Reviewed at the Palais on 3 March 2019

Presented by Adelaide Festival

They Might Be Giants’ current Australian tour has included a few two-night stands in which they showcase different decades of their musical output. With a career that spans almost forty years and hundreds of songs released, there’s plenty of material to cover. Even though Adelaide got just a single show, the band did it’s best to pack as much exuberant indie pop into one night as humanly possible.

That meant including material from their 1986 debut self-titled album as well as The Communists Have The Music, which is just a few months old, as well as plenty in between. Not many bands could announce an obscure song from their debut album to wild cheers, but the reaction to Hideaway Folk Family made it clear that there were a lot of huge fans in attendance.

And the beauty of TMBG is that though the songs diverge wildly in style, the band’s approach almost always involves short songs with punchy power chords, earworm hooks and tongue planted firmly in cheek. Many of those songs create tiny worlds full of improbable but memorable details, and they sound like theme songs to some long-forgotten TV show.

The humour wasn’t restricted to the music, either – at times the set resembled a stand-up comedy routine interspersed with songs as the two Johns riffed on everything from the unfinished nature of the Palais to John Linnell sneezing in the middle of one song.

The band, which oscillated between four and six members onstage, was predictably tight and the members showed of their versatility by incorporating a range of styles. They played everything from the soundtrack to an Eastern European wedding to moody jazz and discordant funk metal. At times these musical experiments were overindulgent and tested the patience, but their fans are nothing if not loyal.

The calls for multiple encores even after two hours onstage showed this, and the second encore was emblematic of the night. An improvised “song that’s never been sung before” generated a few laughs before they finished with the ultimate theme song for a non-existent TV series, an ecstatic version of Dr Worm.

Reviewed by Alexis Buxton-Collins

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