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- What Nut Intro
- Birdhouse In Your Soul
- Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2
- Number Three
- Doctor Worm
- The Famous Polka
- 32 Footsteps
- Good To Be Alive
- The Mesopotamians
- Bills, Bills, Bills
- When Will You Die
- Damn Good Times
- Madam, I Challenge You To A Duel
- I Palindrome I
- Dig My Grave
- Let Me Tell You About My Operation
- Istanbul (Not Constantinople)
- Sammy Intro
- Withered Hope
- Can't Keep Johnny Down
- Underwater Woman
- New York City
- Careful What You Pack
- James K. Polk
- Climbing The Walls
- Authenticity Trip
- Man, It's So Loud In Here
- Robot Parade
Fan Recaps and Comments:
This was only maybe my second or third time being at the Neptune and it's such a gorgeous theatre. It dates back to the 1930's or so. It's a converted old movie theatre and is super-classy--stained glass windows of mythological scenes and everything. It was possibly the nicest venue I've ever seen TMBG play at and it makes me proud that it's right here in my town.
I was there with Ant and Matt, and we sat in the balcony. Neither Ant nor I are used to being that far away from the stage. It was a little strange--I had to keep reminding myself at the beginning that it was actually a real show and not a video or hologram or something. But it was also nice in a way because, being short, it can be hard for me to see well from the floor. Also being able to see the whole stage like that reminded me that, oh right, there are actually four other guys on stage, since usually I have such tunnel vision on John (not to say I didn't still spend most of the show focusing on him, of course).
They opened with "Birdhouse in Your Soul," which I thought was a killer opener. Yes, I've probably seen it at every single show I've ever been to, but it still makes me so happy. Both musically and lyrically, it's just basically the happiest song ever, and it was just such a wonderful welcome back to the joy of live TMBG after a whole year and a half away from that. Plus, of course the whole crowd was getting way into it too, so I was feeding off of that energy (the band seemed to be too).
The show was at 8:00, and my friends and I were discussing when we came in how strange it was to be at a show that early. Apparently John thought so too--"We barely know where we are! It's still light outside! That's just wrong!"
Then Flans said it was "great to be back at the Showbox something or other, playing drums for Sleater-Kinney." (They were playing at the Showbox that night, but not the one TMBG has played at.) The Showbox SoDo is the really shitty club where they'd played the last couple of times they were here. It's a converted warehouse (so just a big box with concrete floors) in the sketchiest part of town. I was so relieved that they weren't playing there this time, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were too.
Flans also said something about how the crowd on the floor all looked very straightened up, as if they were all making regular visits to the chiropractor. I will have to take his word on that, cos I didn't notice that looking down from the balcony.
After that was "Number Three"! My last show before this was one of the two Pink shows in 2013 so I got to see it then, but damn is it fun live, especially with the sample and everything.
Then came the accordion section. My sole complaint about these shows is the incredible scarcity of accordion. There was the four-song section here and then one more in the encore and that was it. FIVE SONGS. FIVE SONGS OUT OF 35. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. I know there's only two accordion songs on Glean (both of which they did play, though only one with accordion), and that that's the main thing they were promoting, but I just really wish they would've had a higher selection of accordion stuff with the older songs they played.
That being said, the four they did here were excellent choices. "Doctor Worm" is another one of those songs I've seen a million times but is still so much fun that I don't really mind, and I love seeing "The Famous Polka," because it is one of the songs that particularly gives John a chance to show off his accordion chops.
John before "32 Footsteps": "This song features the harmonica. It is incumbent upon...I can't think of how to finish that sentence." So awkward. So adorable.
"Good to be Alive" is my least-favourite song on Glean, but I actually liked it a lot more live. I'll admit that part of that was probably getting to see John being sexy with his accordion while they played it, but also I think it's because I was there at a TMBG show, which is the single place in the world where I can most agree with "it's good to be alive" as a sentiment.
After that was the phone call from one of Flans's alter egos portion. I'd been looking forward to this very much. I'd just seen a video of one of the Mama TMBG calls previously, and it was hiliarious.
This time the call was from the Washington State Penitentiary. After John agreed to accept the charges, we discovered it was from Neptune himself!
He explained that he had been bragging to some guys about being the Greek god of the sea but they had been skeptical ("Sure you're the Greek god of the sea!") Then they had dosed him and he'd woken up in prison. (I'd had no idea what "dosed" meant but Matt later explained to me that it means slipping someone drugs, usually acid.)
What happened next was one of the absolute highlights of the whole show for me. John said, "I'm not sure about this, because I think you're Roman. I'm not sure if I want to accept these charges." Oh my god it was SO FUCKING GREAT. I love his fact-checking, and it was such a smart thing to be fact-checking about.
After that Neptune started demanding that John send him a shiv, but rather than agreeing, John said, "I'm going into a tunnel, I'm losing you." Neptune was undeterred and called back a moment later, reminding John that he "can make the seas rise" and would not hesitate to do so if he didn't listen to him.
John after that: "Speaking of mythological beings, this is the perfect segue into our next song, almost as if it were planned." Then they played "The Mesopotamians."
Flans introduced "Answer" as being "the best one" of the new Dial-A-Song tracks, which makes sense since it was what they picked to be the single. I always think it's sweet that The Johns admire each other's work so much.
After that came something that greatly amused the three of us. Flans: "Ladies and gentlemen--it's been brought to my attention that I say 'ladies and gentlemen" a lot. Don't think I'm not reading those messages--'Why does he say ladies and gentlemen so much.' I do it out of respect for the audience." (It should be noted that he said it just as frequently as ever for the remainder of the show.)
This is how Flans introduced "Bills, Bills Bills":
"We were invited to do something a few years ago for the AV Club Undercover, in which they make bands do covers of songs they are ill-equipped to cover. I'm not saying it was a contest, but technically, we won. So they invited us back. It's like the Peter Principle--they invite you back until you fail, and then they pretend that they were never your friends. This is the first Destiny's Child song that we'll be performing tonight, off the album Something or Other."
So then they played it, and oh my god. I'd seen a video of it from a show earlier in the tour, but that did not prepare me from the amazingness of witnessing it in person.
I actually know nothing about Destiny's Child (other than the fact that they're native Houstonians like me), but when they started covering this song, I watched the original music video. And I knew Flans would totally be able to pull it off, but I didn't think about the fact that they need two different vocalists.
Well, my prediction about Flans was absolutely correct--as expected, he was pulling out his best "total showman," being very soulful, doing appropriate hand gestures, kneeling on the stage and crooning into the mic he was holding with both hands, the whole bit.
But John? Yehhhhh, not so much. He was doing the Beyonce part, and let's just say he was not quite as convincing as Flans was. He's just way too much of an awkward middle-aged man to be anything but ridiculous with such material. It was hilarious, and also, of course, totally adorable. I wonder if he knows how inappropriate it was for him? I certainly hope so.
After that they did "When Will You Die." They've only kept a couple of Join Us songs in the set, but I'm glad this is one of them. It's so fun live, and is one of the best songs ever to sing along with.
They followed that up with "Damn Good Times," which is also another stellar live song. It was great to have one high-energy, awesome song leading into another, though I did think it was cool how at some earlier shows they were following "When Will You Die" with "Older," since they are thematically related.
During the break they always do between "and time" and "is still marching on" in "Older," Neptune called again.
JF: Is your password zeroes or capital O's? JL: Yes. JF: I need a shiv. S-H-I-V. JL: Where does that word come from, "shiv"? JF: It comes from prison! Listen, Mr. Password1234. I need a shiv before nightfall.
Afterwards, John said they could do a podcast about the word origin of "shiv." He said, "It's Persian," which completely confused me, but later Matt said it was confusing Flans's "It comes from prison" for "It comes from Persia." The three of us could not reach a consensus on if he was joking or if he actually misheard him. Either way, the fact that he was wondering about etymology was another "You fucking nerd, I love you" moment for me.
Then Flans said something about how "'Shiv' and 'vig' both sound like what they do. 'Vig' is about money but there's hostility in it." I was also clueless about the meaning of "vig," but Matt, who is apparently up on all the illicit lingo, explained that it has something to do with betting.
Then Flans instructed everyone to take out their phones ("We know you all have phones. Don't bullshit us"), turn the lights on, wave them in the air, and "enjoy this mid-tempo ballad." The song was "Madam, I Challenge You to a Duel," and everyone waving their phones around actually looked pretty cool. Unfortunately, I couldn't play along because I'm the last person on earth without a smartphone, so mine doesn't have a light to turn on.
Next was "I Palindrome I," YES. I'm not sure if I've seen it before ever--if I have it was quite some time ago. It's one of my favourite songs on Apollo 18, so that was very exciting.
What followed was even better though--"Dig My Grave." While I like "I Palindrome I" better on the album, "Dig My Grave" kicked every bit as much ass live as you'd expect.
After that Flans said they have "the best job in the world." Then John said that at the show the night before there had been a guy in the front row saying "Whee," but the way he said it was the most bored, unexcited way possible, the very opposite of the spirit of that word. "I just thought he was a Frenchman," Flans replied.
John said that part of being in a band that's had such a long career is that you have to "sacrifice your previous work" to promote the new album at a show, but he went on to say that it's ok because the older stuff isn't as good.
Then they played "Let Me Tell You About My Operation." That's my favourite Flansong on Glean, so I was very much looking forward to seeing it live. I was worried that it would lose a lot without the horns, but my fears were completely unfounded, cos it was totally awesome. In a callback to the preceding banter, Flans said "oui" in lieu of the final "tres bon."
They closed out the first set with "Istanbul." That is definitely a song I could do without seeing every damn show cos I'm really not crazy about it to begin with, but I know they have to do some stuff for the casual fans.
The song itself was just the standard-issue version, but instead of ending where the album version does they concluded with this crazy jam session that seemed to last practically as long as the song itself, and I did enjoy that part. John was bouncing! So cute! And also pounding onto his keyboard with his fists and bending so far over it he was practically playing it with his face! Also so cute!
After the break between the sets, with the three of us spent discussing how terrific the show had been so far, they came back and busted out "Erase." This is one of the two songs that holds the top spot in my personal ranking of Glean songs, so I was very much looking forward to it, and it most definitely did not disappoint.
Then they did "Withered Hope." I didn't get to see any shows on the The Else tour, and I'd only seen a couple of songs from it live previously, which had always been very disappointing to me cos it's one of my favourite albums. This song honestly isn't one of my top favourites form the album, but it was pretty dang cool live.
Flans introduced "Underwater Woman" by saying it was "a song for the ladies." Sadly, he didn't include the "our one true love" like he would when introducing "S-E-X-X-Y."
In the middle of the song, there was randomly some confetti fluttering down over the center of the floor--just a bit, and clearly unplanned. Matt speculated that it had been used by another band and part of it had gotten lodged in part of the ceiling somehow. It was very strange. It also made me realize how much I miss the confetti cannons they used to use during "James K. Polk."
Flans said their career could take a "hard left detour" and turn into them just being a Destiny's Child cover band, and that it would be "the musical equivalent of a controlled implosion. We could play in cabarets at casinos, book 25 years in advance. 'It's weird that they're doing this now, but they just keep selling out.'" John: "Or not. It would be an implosion where no other bands were hurt. Except possibly Destiny's Child. Collateral damage."
After that someone was yelling a request for something, and Flans said that they not only were not taking requests, but they would cross anything requested off the setlist. "There's a taste of New York style for you." Then more people were yelling stuff, including, yes, "Freebird" (my, aren't you clever and original). That was pretty annoying, but fortunately it died down quickly.
Flans said he was drinking tea that consisted of 50% honey. I thought it was odd that he was drinking tea rather than the customary coffee, but later I saw something he posted on Tumblr about having a sore throat, so that must be why.
Then they were getting ready to play "Careful What You Pack" and he talked about how they'd been asked to do songs for Coraline and wrote a bunch, but none of them made it into the movie. Someone yelled that that wasn't true, and Flans corrected himself with the fact that "one 45-second song" did make it in.
They played "James K. Polk" next. John, introducing it: "This is a song about the 11th president. *cheers* Yes, I know. It's just a song." I've seen it a whole bunch of times, but it's definitely more fun since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, cos people cheer during the "made the English sell the Oregon territory" part. Also, there was some quality John-spazzin' during the third verse.
Next they played "Climbing the Walls." Like I said, I've seen almost nothing in the way of songs from The Else so it was cool to see another one, but this wasn't one of the top ones I would've picked. It's a perfectly good song, but there are just others I think would've translated better to a live setting. It occurred to me later that they were probably getting stuff practiced for the album show they're doing in Brooklyn in a couple of weeks. I really wish I could go to that show, but I'm glad I at least got a taste of it.
There was some of the best banter of the show after that. John said it was very "civilized" for them to be playing two sets, then he said he wondered if it was "more adult" to pronounce "adult" as "aa-dult" (how he usually says it) or "uh-dult."
Rather than continuing on that topic, Flans jumped into this:
JF: I don't understand why people say "old-school" when the real old-school thing to say is "old-fashioned." JL: Bullshit you're old-school! Excuse me!
Flans then told this hilarious story about how he saw his next-door neighbor getting arrested (he seemed very unfazed by this--I'm assuming it was probably in the early days of TMBG when they were both living in super-sketchy neighborhoods) and he kept yelling "I'm old-school!" "I don't know why he thought this would have any sway with the police," Flans said. Then he said that he never saw him again, and that he must be on Rikers Island getting some old-school treatment.
Flans introduced the next song as being about Teaneck, New Jersey. When there was no response, he said, "I can see how many people in the crowd are associated with Teaneck." He went on to explain that Teaneck is "a beautiful place just outside of New York City...full of people trying to get out."
So then of course they played "Authenticity Trip." When I saw them doing that earlier in the tour I was shocked cos that's a pretty damn obscure album, but it's also one of the absolute best songs on it, so I was really excited too. And oh man, it was SO FUN live. I was proud of myself for being able to sing along with the whole thing since I haven't listened to it as much as the stuff on the studio albums.
Also, I suppose this is horribly elitist, but I was quite amused by the fact that the vast majority of the crowd, who'd been rockin' out and getting into the stuff they were familiar with, clearly had NO IDEA what this song was.
Then there was the rock version of "Man, It's So Loud in Here." I do prefer the Mink Car version, but I went to a bunch of shows on that tour and saw it a lot then. So the rock version was a nice change of pace, and certainly not something I ever expected to see live.
Then, "Twisting"! This is another song they were playing all the time on that tour, but oh man, SO FUN. This is up there as one of my top favourite Flansongs, and it's perfect for rockin' out to at a show.
Flans said that the next song involved strobe lights, but we might already know about that "from the show you've already watched."
So then they did "Unpronounceable." That's the song that's tied with "Erase" as my favourite track on Glean, and I was really looking forward to seeing it.
I thought "Erase" worked a little better live, but "Unpronounceable" was still terrific. I'd been wondering how they'd do the part where the vocal is cutting out--John sang it in just little blips. It was great.
They had a camera shooting footage for the screen at the back of the stage, and John got over and got his face all up in it. It was silly.
Flans thanked everyone, including the Washington State Penitentiary "for keeping it old-school." "If anyone could send over a shiv--" "That would be good," John finished.
They finished out the set with the most rocking version of "Robot Parade" I have ever seen. It's funny cos really it's such a quiet song, but they really got going at the end, like they were doing with "Istanbul" to close out the first set. John was bouncing adorably again. There was a bit where Flans told the audience to form "a human theremin," and moved his hand to "play" the sound that got higher as it moved up to those of us in the balcony.
Before the first encore, they brought out John's bass clarinet. I was confused cos the only song I could think of him needing it for was "Cloisonne," and I knew they hadn't been playing that this tour. But it was actually for "I was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar." Flans talked about how important Jonathan Richman was to them as Boston-area kids while introducing it.
Flans said you could find all the Dial-A-Song songs on their website, orchestralmanoeuvresinthedark.org.
They did "Ana Ng" next. That is a very, very special song to me (as you might've gathered from the fact that I have a tattoo of a line from it), and seeing it live is always an extremely emotional experience for me. During the bridge, Neptune called to demand a shiv one final time.
The first encore ended with "Particle Man." That's one of those songs I've seen too many times, but I was happy to get something to satisfy my voracious appetite for accordion a bit more. There was also some cute-as-hell spazzing in there.
When they came back for the second encore, Flans plugged the other shows that they're doing on the tour. He said they'd be playing all of Side One of Flood in San Francisco, "but we can't promise it's Side One of the CD," would be going to Oklahoma City, where "they just had a huge hurricane, cool" (pretty sure that's the wrong natural disaster, Flans), and will be "working on our heart disease" at Stubb's in Austin.
Then he said that if you end up in Dallas, you need to go check out the grassy knoll. "The longer you look at it, the more you realize...it wasn't a conspiracy...it was just one guy, the guy they caught..."
He went on to say that the worst part of realizing this was "knowing Arlen Specter was right." "But he's dead, so he doesn't get the satisfaction of hearing us say that," John pointed out. Flans: "It's just nice to know that somewhere...Arlen Specter is lookin' up...Too soon?"
They ended the night with "Fingertips," which is an awesome closer. John took one last opportunity to be silly by singing "I'm Arlen Specter" in place of the last "I don't understand you."
So that was the conclusion of a truly epic night. I could so get used to this two sets thing. They made some excellent choices of songs from Glean to play (my only complaint was the omission of "Aaa"), the other stuff I hadn't seen before was lots of fun, and it was great to see them breaking out some old favourites too.