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1st Set (John & John only)
- Snowball In Hell
- Don't Let's Start
- The Famous Polka
- I'll Sink Manhattan
- Trouble Awful Devil Evil
- Lie Still, Little Bottle
- Ana Ng
- Impossibly New
- They'll Need A Crane
- I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die (segued into:)
- Cage & Aquarium
- Wearing A Raincoat
- How Can I Sing Like A Girl?
- Youth Culture Killed My Dog
- Birdhouse In Your Soul
- She's An Angel
2nd Set (Full band)
- The Mesopotamians
- We Live In A Dump
- Can't Keep Johnny Down
- Number Three
- Authenticity Trip
- I Can Help The Next In Line
- Damn Good Times
- When Will You Die
- Let Me Tell You About My Operation
- I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar
- Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2
- James K. Polk
Fan Recaps and Comments:
Description from the TMBG Merch Store:
- For one brief shining moment on Saturday, November 29th, 2015, They Might Be Giants returned to their original format: a drum machine and synth bass tracked to a TEAC reel-to-reel tape recorder with a duo lineup of John L. on accordion and John F. on a Japanese telecaster (even taking care to bring back his original Fender Deluxe amp and minimal pedal complement). It was all Big 80s Systems at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn for that special set. Combining some early classics with recent numbers into a truly dynamic set of songs, these recordings are a unique glimpse of They Might Be Giants Version 1.0.
- To top things off, the second set that night reintroduced They Might Be Giants' long-standing live lineup of the 21st century and, like John Henry of legend, they set out to prove that live humans will always eclipse the heartless, error-free efforts of machines. Who won? Only you can decide.
- one word: STICK.
- Of all the bands that I'd expect to lose my hearing from seeing live, TMBG was one of the last. I was proven wrong tonight after Flansburgh screamed into the stick when it was at full volume. After that, I have no idea what other songs they did, and probably never will again
- Flans didn't scream into anything. He told the sound guy to raise the volume of the stick, and it was loud enough to cause feedback for the next test thump. Without crouching to the floor how would he possibly scream into the stick mic? -126.96.36.199
- but seriously... still buzzing from this show. That first set might be the best hour of Giants I've ever seen! Not a subpar song in the mix and so fresh to see just the Johns up there with the 8-track spinning behind them. The drum machine sounded good - crisp sound, on point. Highlights:
- • The leadoff song "Snowball" was hilarious/disturbing when the bridge kicked in and the Johns started mouthing the pre-recorded morning at the office like zombie-automatons.
- • So many oldie goldies, despite Linnell saying something akin to "this ain't a nostalgia show... it's more of a data backup."
- • Three first-ever stage premiers of their recent dial-a-song work. "Trouble Awful Devil Evil" was especially mesmerizing.
- • The Stick ruled supreme thru 'Lie Still' in it's first appearance in 15ish years. They mused afterword that they must have cut it from the show because it was so damn heavy.
- • Some rare performances of "I'll Sink Manhattan" and "Wearing a Raincoat"!
- • Closing with She's An Angel gave me chills. The song that made me fall in love with TMBG and race up and down the sidewalk 20,000,000 times to see them. It really shined with the duo format, drum-machine blaring the bass line in the background.
- The 2nd set was the usual raucous good time! Highlights:
- • Flansy announcing their New Years Day show would be Flood themed, and the day after would be the day They don't show up to their show themed.
- • An amazingingly odd keyboard solo by Linnell mixing in artificial vocal groans!
- • The most extended endings to Istanbul I've ever seen. Marty and Flans must have kicked it for another loop at least 5 times!
- But really the 1st set was so good that it made me wish I'd been old enough to see them as a duo back in the day. The band is amazing, but every rock show has a band, and what the Giants did as a duo was so off-beat and special. I hope this starts a tradition of shows split up like this.
Before this show even started I knew it was going to take the spot of Best Show Ever. All the stars were aligning for it to be perfect. It was my 50th show, and I'd been wanting to celebrate that with something special, so when they announced they were doing a duo show I was like "I am there." Then, making it even better, a bunch of my friends were there too.
For the duo set they had the screen stage backdrop they've been using the last few years showing a closeup shot of the tape running. It was awesome.
When they came out John said they would have their brows furrowed during the show, and they explained the duo thing and there was a lot of cheering. Then John said, "There might be a reason we stopped" and Flans said he was "having a lot of internal thoughts right then."
The first song was "Snowball in Hell," and once the tape started and I could see that it really was a duo show with a tape, I got so much more excited than I already was. I've seen that song a couple of times before, and seeing how much better it was with the duo tape version made me realize how much better all the songs would be.
It's one of my favourite Flansongs too, so I thought it was a great opener period. For the bridge they lip-synced to these really silly voices on the tape. They were doing silly motions with their hands too.
After they finished the song Flans said that would be the format for the whole show and John said, "You can leave now. It's not gonna get better." It was so ridiculous to me that they kept apologizing for the duo thing when that was why we were fucking there.
After that was when I really knew it was gonna get good--"Don't Let's Start"!!! While "A Self Called Nowhere" is my favourite song, I think "Don't Let's Start" is their best song, and it was such a special feeling to see them play it in that arrangement.
They played "The Famous Polka" next, and after that Flans said people ask them why they don't sing the vocal part on that song, and then he explained that the reason is because they forget to, and afterwards they wonder why they forgot again.
Flans introduced "I'll Sink Manhattan" by saying it was "from the '80s, when Williamsburg had dinosaurs roaming around."
"Trouble Awful Devil Evil" was the first of three Dial-A-Song songs they played--I wasn't expecting any, so it was a total surprise. John was playing the saxonette, but only for like two seconds. He still looked pretty damn cute playing such a cute instrument. The only thing that upset me was he was holding it even when he wasn't playing it, which meant he wasn't doing any spazzy stuff like he always does when he's singing but not playing anything.
Flans said that when they started out they believed the tape thing was "an organic and normal way to present ourselves" and that they were "extremely confident we were not different from anything else." He said they would have conversations with club owners about how they liked them but also felt sorry for them and "it's not us, it's the customers." But he said that just made them have a more firm resolve that they keep at it "in the age of the asymmetrical hairdo."
After that came one of the absolute highlights of the show. Flans asked the people in the front row to move back from the edge of the stage, and John said there were going to be "pyrotechnics." Then Flans brought out The Stick!!! He introduced it as being "straight out of rehab." I'd seen The Stick before, but only a couple of times a very long time ago. Like with everything else, the duo setting made it way cooler.
There was some preparation done before Flans was ready to play The Stick. He banged it on the floor to test it, and then he said it needed to be louder, "so loud people blink when they hear it." He said something about being at shows where the drummer plays the snare really loud and he'll refuse to blink, he just "stares at him with dead eyes." They made it louder and he said it was now "performance art," and "Put on your crash helmet, you're going to be hearing this song for a long time." Finally he asked John if he was ready and he said yes, and Flans replied that at least one of them was. John was playing contra-alto clarinet for this one, which was definitely cooler than the bass clarinet, but still not as cool as the bari sax.
After the song, just before he put The Stick away, he yelled into the mic. Because they'd turned it up it was very loud and quite startling, but I found it pretty amusing that he'd do that. Then John asked Flans how his arm felt, and Flans said that this Stick was "weirdly heavy" and he thinks that was probably why they stopped using it. (It definitely did look bigger than the Stick I saw 13 years ago.) I was imagining Flans wandering around the forest looking for the perfect Stick and it made me happy.
John introduced "Ana Ng" by saying "This is a song by an old band...us." It reminded me of something he said in an interview I read about how when they play their really old songs it makes him feel like they're covering themselves cos he's so far removed from the version of himself that wrote those songs.
Then he said, "I think this accordion is falling apart, just to add some extra edge," and I was like "Yes! Let it fall apart so you can start playing a bigger one!" Obviously I don't want the Main Squeeze to stop being playable in the middle of a show, but I would so not complain if he had to give it up and start playing one of the nice biiiiiig ones again. He does seem awfully attached to it though, so he would probably just get it repaired if that happened--damn him!
So then they played "Ana Ng." Hearing that song is such an emotional experience for me--it's so beautiful but also so heartbreaking. And since getting my "and the truth is, we don't know anything" tattoo it's been even more emotional. I always run my fingers over the ink when I sing that line along with John--it's such an intense feeling.
Next Flans explained about this year's Dial-A-Song project, "which has a website that we'll let you search for on your own, and also on all the social media sites, which we totally understand." He said they couldn't fuck the next song up, to which John replied, "Who's gonna know?"
After that one, next was "They'll Need a Crane"!!! That was one of the highlights of the whole show for me for sure. It's one of their absolute best songs of all time, and I've only seen it a couple of times even with a band. So it was extra-exciting duo.
After that John asked Flans if he was getting static shocks from his microphone, and Flans said it was probably because they had a carpet on stage this time. John said it was "like a Pavlovian punishment for getting too close to the microphone."
Then Flans said that static shocks were better than flies. He started to say something about them playing at outdoor rock festivals and someone in the crowd yelled something (Joe, who was near the guy, later told me it was "We've all been there") and Flans said "Shut up dude, I'm tellin' a story," which was great (people, including me, cheered and applauded). Then he said that at those shows the lights will be pointed at you and then flies will be attracted to the light and fly into your mouth--ew! He concluded with "That's a little story for my drunk friend."
Next was "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die," seguing into "Cage and Aquarium." "I Hope That I Get Old Before I Die" is great duo (it was the sole thing they did duo at the Pink shows two years ago), and I felt pretty cool knowing "Cage and Aquarium" would be coming next. After that one was over John said, "We like to end on a tense and anxious note."
John thanked us for "risking everything" and coming to a duo show, and just like the first time they were all apologetic about it, I was just like "What the fuck are you talking about?" cos the duo thing was the entire reason some of us had come across the entire country for this show.
Flans asked us how our Thanksgiving was, and people cheered to indicate that it was good. Then someone yelled "How was yours?" "It was ok. I mean, we're all lying, but it's nice to be in a room full of liars.
JL: This is the part of the show where we play songs that we didn't play in the '80s, because we wrote them in the '00s or whatever. This is not a nostalgia show...he said, grumpily. JF: It is for me! JL: It's more of a data recovery show.
After "Daylight" came the most out-of-left-field song of the whole set---"Wearing a Raincoat," of all things. Everything else they played was either brand-new (the three Dial-A-Song songs they debuted), something they've previously done duo ("How Can I Sing Like a Girl?"), or very old (all late '80s except for "Birdhouse in Your Soul"), so that one was a total surprise.
Ant had said before the show that he was hoping they would cook up duo arrangements of some full-band songs just cos he thought it would be interesting to hear how they'd decide to play them like that. I wasn't too keen on the idea myself (I'm a purist like that), but I must admit hearing "Wearing a Raincoat" that way was actually pretty cool, even though it's not even one of my fav Spine songs. Ant was excited cos it sounded closer to the demo version (which he loves) than the album version.
Afterwards Flans was tuning his guitar and he said something about how he recently went to see Loudon Wainwright III and he tuned after he played rather than before.
JL: It's like he's correcting the past, rather than planning for the future. JF: I think you'd have to talk to his kids about that. They'd have more to say. Snap!
After that they did "How Can I Sing Like a Girl?" Really I would've rather seen them do a duo song I hadn't seen at all (I already saw that one a bunch on the Join Us tour), but it is still a nice version of the song. And it's one of that tiny handful of songs where John actually knows how to play the buttons--good job, John! *pats head*
They ended the show with a triplet of pure awesome: "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," "Birdhouse in Your Soul," and "She's an Angel." I never really appreciated how great "Youth Culture Killed My Dog" is until I saw it (full-band) at the Pink show, and now that I've seen it duo I really know how great it is. "Birdhouse in Your Soul" always makes me happy cos it's basically the happiest song ever (though as Ant pointed out Flans wasn't quite as bouncy as he is in old videos, which was a little disappointing), and "She's an Angel" is what I consider their most genuinely sweet song, and made a perfect closer.
When they were walking off stage Flans went over to the tape and pretended to be DJing the house music and was dancing around--it was really silly and really cute.
They opened the full-band set with "The Mesopotamians," and then Flans wished us a happy new year, which was silly to do in November. He introduced "We Live in a Dump" by saying it was "a song about apartment living."
Next they played "Can't Keep Johnny Down." They also played "When Will You Die" later, and if they are gonna keep two Join Us songs in the set I think they definitely made the right choices--both those songs are so much fun live.
Next was "Answer," and when Dan got his acoustic guitar out, Flans said he'd be playing that cos it was "a sophisticated, adult show."
"Answer" and "I Can Help the Next in Line" were the only JL Glean songs they played, and really I would've preferred "Erase" or "Unpronounceable" since they're my favs (they're tied for the top spot). I know "Answer" is the single and it is a fantastic song, but I just prefer really upbeat stuff live, so I think one of the other two would've worked better. "I Can Help the Next in Line" was a really odd choice, but it amused me that they played it cos Ant detests that song and I knew it would make him mad to see them play it.
then they played "Number Three," which is always fun. I wasn't sure if they'd be playing more stuff from duo albums in the full-band set. I was happy that they did a few, though of course they weren't as cool as the duo ones.
After that Flans said the next song was "another true story," this one about Teaneck, New Jersey. He interrupted himself to point out that the "versatile" Dan Miller was now switching from acoustic guitar back to electric guitar. Then he said that the song was about the laundromat Bubbles of Teaneck, which isn't like an ordinary laundromat cos it has the "quiet dignity" to add the location to its name.
"Authenticity Trip" is so fucking awesome live. They were really picking some killer Flans rockers for the second set.
After that Flans was plugging the three shows they'll be doing at the same club over New Year's. He said the first show would be a Flood show, and then we can all buy tickets for the third show but they're not gonna show up. John said, "We've been setting up this scam for 33 years. It was the perfect crime." Then it turned into this whole weird thing about how Sly Stone will be the opening act, but he is gonna show up and play a great set. Flans ended by saying "But I digress, thinking of my dreams." The whole thing was really funny. The banter is one of the best parts of TMBG shows for me, and this was definitely the best bit at this one.
After "I Can Help the Next in Line," they did another marvelous triplet: "Damn Good Times," "When Will You Die," and "Let Me Tell You About My Operation." "Damn Good Times" is so much fun live that sometimes when I'm listening to The Spine it makes me ache to be at a show. "When Will You Die" is always awesome, and one of the most fun songs to sing along with ever. There was a woman by me who had apparently never heard it before and was just cracking up for the whole song. "Let Me Tell You About My Operation" I'd only seen at the two shows I went to on the spring Glean tour, but it's already one of my favourite live songs.
After that they played "Dead." That was definitely the highlight of the second set for me--I fucking love that song, and I can't even remember the last time I saw it, so it was an excellent surprise.
After that everyone was walking around at the back of the stage, and John was just standing there alone at his keyboard stand, and he said, "Where did everybody go?"--aww, my poor lonely baby.
Flans was just moving The Stick, but people were yelling for more Stick (which was silly, cos "Lie Still, Little Bottle" is the only song The Stick can be used for).
JF: The Stick came unplugged. There's no rearview mirror on that thing. JL: The guy who plugs it in is gone for the night.
They were getting ready to play "I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar" next, so John got out his contra-alto clarinet again. Flans asked him what the name of that instrument was, and then they talked for a couple of minutes about very large woodwinds. Flans asked him what it is that you have to climb up on a chair to play, and John said he was "trying to think of an amusing answer" but couldn't (he's not exactly always the most quick on his feet on stage). Then Flans said that everything they said was being "filmed and fact-checked" and John said all of what he'd said had been lies.
After that they played "Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2," so between that and "Let Me Tell You About My Operation" they had their bases covered as far as standout Glean Flansongs. I don't know how they managed to pick the best JF ones but not the best JL ones.
Next was "Twisting" (HELL YES) and then "James K. Polk," which John introduced by saying he was "a terrible person."
There was some quality John spazzing during the last verse of the song--he's been doing it then at every show (god knows why). That was, disappointingly, the only major display of spazziness during the whole show. It was still cute as hell though, as always.
That was the end of the set, and during the first encore break people were cheering for another set. When everyone came back they were messing around being silly, including Dan rubbing a guitar pick against the microphone. As they began the next song, John said, "We totally planned that."
The first song of the encore was "Robot Parade." Before the show Ant and I were telling Joe (who hasn't been to any other shows this year) about the version they've been playing, which starts out as the quiet children's version but then turns into this insane jam session. This performance was even more insane than the ones we saw in May.
In the middle of it Flans did the thing where he moves his hands to control the audience, which is acting as a "human theremin," but first he said maybe it would be "too late, past your bedtime, sleepy and can't do it, sorry." The audience did oblige though--it was fun, and Flans was being pretty silly.
They also did band intros during this song. Flans had Dan go from "King of Math Rock" to "School of Rock," and then he introduced Danny as playing "for the sexy people."
John was supercute during this song. He was hopping during the first rocking part, which is always THE CUTEST. Then when Flans was doing the theremin and band intros parts he was standing over on the side of the stage with his arms crossed and he was all smiley, which was also THE CUTEST. He looked like he was really enjoying the stuff Flans was doing, and it was making me think about how perfectly complementary The Johns are--John with his brilliant songwriting and Flans with his showmanship.
After that they played "The Guitar," which is a song I've seen a bunch of times but is just SO MUCH FUN. John was being a total cutie hopping again, and he also spent a long time playing around with his Kaoss Pad--that was cute too, just cos he seemed to be having so much fun being silly.
They started the second encore with "Meet James Ensor," which Flans introduced by mentioning that he'd just celebrated his death day. Then they thanked the crew and the audience--John said "Yay! Goddammit!" and Flans gave special shout-outs to people who had lost their phones and keys that night.
They closed the show with "Doctor Worm," and I gotta say, I was rather disappointed by that. Don't get me wrong, I love "Doctor Worm"--it's actually one of my favourite TMBG songs--but it's just that I've seen it 50 million times and I was hoping for something more exciting for the closer. What I really wanted was "The Statue Got Me High," cos I knew they'd played that the last few shows and it's one of my absolute top favourite songs that I've never seen. So the fact that they didn't play it at all is my only complaint about this otherwise flawless show.
So the duo set absolutely lived up to my expectations of being the best show ever. It was spectacular--easily the best hour of live music I've ever seen in my entire life. I'm so grateful to have gotten an opportunity to see that--it is not something I ever expected them to do, and I felt so lucky to be there for it.
The band set was pretty much their greatest-hits show set, so I could've done with a couple more surprises there, but even TMBG songs I've seen a bunch of times make me happy--there's nowhere I'd rather be than a TMBG show, no matter what they're playing. And as "stuff we play a whole lot" songs go, they picked some of their most fun ones, particularly the Flansongs.
Miscellaneous John thoughts: His hair was perfect. He was wearing a black pullover for the first set and a black pocket t-shirt (an old standby for him) for the second set. Black is an excellent colour on him (I think it's his #2 best colour, after red), so I was happy with that. In really exciting news, he was wearing Chucks, FUCK YES.
I definitely would've liked it if we'd gotten more spazzing and/or hopping, but the little bits there were were most excellent. I also very much enjoyed the closeups of his hands on the keyboard that were sometimes being projected on the screen--just seeing him stand there playing his keyboard does nothing for me, but I am all about actually seeing his hands on the keys.
So, in summary: It was one of the most fucking incredible nights of my entire life, and I couldn't've asked for a better way to celebrate my 50th show. --Self Called Nowhere (talk) 23:32, 3 December 2015 (EST)