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Setlist: (Incomplete and likely out of order)
Fan Recaps and Comments:
Review from The San Francisco Chronicle (Nov. 17, 1992):
Anybody who can turn the dippy '50s pop hit "Istanbul" into a full-fledged personal epic must be up to something out of the ordinary.He also picked up a portable radio at one point, held it in front of a microphone and searched the dial for a random song selection the band could try to attempt to play, hitting on Cat Stevens' "Morning Has Broken," as accordionist Linnell tentatively fingered the melody and Flansburgh launched a largely improvised vocal to the tune.
They Might Be Giants drenched their two-man version of the 1953 Four Lads hits in Zeppish echo and broke the final verse into apocalyptic slogans ("No, you can't go back to Constantinople").
Having eschewed the metronome and tapes in favor of a real band with real musicians, John Linnell and John Flansburgh did not let such concessions to conventionality get in their way Sunday at the Great American Music Hall, where the group opened a three-night run, virtually a residency in the one-night-stand world of rock dates.
Having honed pop instincts into razor-sharp, tightly arranged little songs, some lasting no longer than two minutes like little jabs in the ear, the Giants etch scrupulously crafted lyrics that range from deliciously deranged to modestly ironic without ever recalling anybody else's work. They even managed to make the fluffy Lesley Gore oldie, "Maybe I Know," sound like something they wrote.
But what can you say about a group that begins a song with the line "Someday mother will die and I'll get the money"?
Accordionist Linnell and guitarist Flansburgh opened the show in their typical two-man configuration, underneath mysterious enlarged portraits taken from old film stills and, after a few numbers, brought on the new band, including Pere Ubu bassist Tony Maimone, saxist Kurt Hoffman of the Ordinaires and drummer J.D. Feinberg.
The capacity crowd squealed with the delight of recognition on practically every opening line, so the band clearly is developing a substantial following that could well boost the witty songsmiths into a mainstream audience. After a series of independent releases starting in 1985, with the last two albums issued by a major label, the band that took its name from an obscure George C. Scott movie appears to be crawling its way out of the underground.
And small wonder. The pungent, pointed songs fraught with clever wordplay and surrealistic imagery invariably run along jaunty melodic lines. "Particle Man" is whimsy set to an oompah beat. "Twisting," taking its key line from a White House tape comment by Watergate conspirator John Ehrlichman, sets the bitter tale of lost love -- which happens to mention the name of opening act, Young Fresh Fellows -- against a kind of jazzy backbeat.
Shot through the entire world of TMBG is an underlying sense of humor, the idea that just about anything at least might be funny. Guitarist Flansburgh goofed around playing a solo from the balcony directly above the Music Hall stage, punctuating the performance by lowering his guitar by its cord until it hung in front of its amplifier and belched out feedback. Earlier in the show, he broke a microphone by tapping out the beat to one song with a percussion instrument he called "The Beam," an eight-foot tall piece of four-by-four lumber.