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- "Monster" Intro
- It's Not My Birthday
- Doctor Worm
- Particle Man
- Music Jail, Pt. 1 & 2
- They Might Be Giants
- Experimental Film
- I Love You For Psychological Reasons
- Authenticity Trip
- I Can Help The Next In Line
- Trouble Awful Devil Evil
- Science Is Real
- When Will You Die
- Cyclops Rock
- "Nude Clown" Intro
- Space Suit
- Hypnotist Of Ladies
- Turn Around
- If I Wasn't Shy
- See The Constellation
- Which Describes How You're Feeling
- Hall Of Heads
- Narrow Your Eyes
- Dinner Bell
- The Guitar
- The Statue Got Me High
- My Evil Twin
- She's Actual Size
- I Palindrome I
- Dig My Grave
On the setlist but not played:
Fan Recaps and Comments:
This was one of those shows where I knew going in that, unless something went terribly wrong, it was going to be one of the best shows I've ever been to, because that's how full-album shows always are for me. There are so many motherfucking FANTASTIC songs that they never play, so it's absolutely thrilling to me to actually get a chance to see them. It's particularly exciting when the album is one of their absolute certified classics like *Apollo 18* is. So when I found out they were doing this show not too terribly far way from me, I knew I *had* to jump at the chance.
So I was already super-excited before the show even started for that reason. Then once the show started but before they started playing I got super-excited for another reason, which is that FUCK John looked SO FUCKING GOOD. Like, he was above-and-beyond sexy even by his standards. His hair was *possibly* the best I've ever seen it, going past just normal floppiness into being actually just a tiny bit long. The quality of his hair is one of the top determining factors in how attractive he is, second only to whether he's wearing his glasses, so to see it looking so completely amazing was a *huge* deal for me. AND AND AND, CHUCKS CHUCKS CHUCKS. So I was swooning plenty over *that* too. As for the rest of his outfit, he was wearing a red and black stripey t-shirt that he's very fond of these days (seeing him wear one of his favourite shirts always makes me happy cos it's adorable how he only has like five shirts he'll wear ever at any given time, plus stripes are just so good on him anyway) and black jeans (I like black better than blue on him so that makes me happy too, though I do wish he still wore tighter ones like he used to).
The set started with *four* accordion songs--four! Way to start the show off right, boys. I wasn't sure how many other accordion songs they'd be playing since there were going to be a lot during the *Apollo 18* set, so it made me really happy to get that many right off the bat.
They opened with "Subliminal," which I think I've seen as an opener one other time and makes a *fantastic* one. It honestly took me a long time to grow to fully appreciate this song, but it's one of my fav tracks on *John Henry* now (which is saying something on my just-barely-second-fav album), and it's really fun live, so bouncy.
After that they played "It's Not My Birthday." I knew there was a chance of that cos they played it on the main *Phone Power* tour in the spring, and I was really hoping they would play it cos it's one of their best b-sides of all time and not something they play live very often. It was good, though I guess I've never noticed that that song is actually pretty quiet, which makes it not necessarily in the same category as the songs I most enjoy live usually. I tried to cheer extra for Ant, cos he *really* loves the song and has never gotten to see it live.
After that Flans explained that tonight they were going to be playing *Apollo 18* in its entirety "for the first and last time in San Francisco, which comes as a tremendous relief to the band. We'll be playing it in sequence but, to paraphrase Ozzy Osbourne, there will be some compromising." They had the lights come up on the audience and he said something about everyone squinting.
JF: It's not so easy having lights pointed at you, is it? We have lights pointed at obrur eyes as part of our job. JL: That's why we get paid extra. JF: We don't like to complain--we *love* to complain.
Next they played "Doctor Worm," which I've seen a million times but is always fun, and then "Particle Man," which I've also seen a million times and am honestly pretty bored with, but it's better than "Istanbul" because at least it's accordion. During the bridge John sang some song I didn't recognize, there was some part about wanting to swing from a chandelier and then something about "wanting to live like Triangle Man doesn't exist," which I somehow suspect isn't in the real song.
Flans introduced "Music Jail" by saying it was from three albums ago. "Some people inside my head say it's one of our best albums. Other people inside my head disagree."
After that they played "They Might Be Giants," which I don't think I've ever seen outside of a *Flood* show and so was a surprise. Afterwards John said, "It's harder to *stop.* Transitions are difficult."
John asked Flans how his day had been and he said he'd spent a lot of the day in the airport, and that he'd gone to someone's restaurant, he said Harvey Keitel but that he knew that wasn't right, some famous chef, and John was able to figure out that he meant Wolfgang Puck. Flans said that they "seem like similar names" (which they totally don't) and John pointed out that "we've never seen them together."
Then Flans said he'd spent the rest of the day wandering around Japantown and it was cool. John said it's like 100 degrees in New York right now and Flans said that, yeh, when he said it was "cool" he wasn't using the "beatnik lingo of San Francisco" but meant literally. Then he said, "I don't wanna get into a blue state/blue state thing."
John started to introduce "Experimental Film" like he was gonna say what album it was from but then he trailed off and Flans said, "I'll give you $5 if you know what album this is from," and I guess John didn't, cos rather than saying it's from *The Spine* he said "It's from the album at the airport." I couldn't believe he didn't know, when I could tell you which album every single one of their songs is on in my sleep. Sometimes it feels like I know more about what they do than they do, which is a weird feeling.
Anyway, "Experimental Film" was superfun. I missed the *Spine* tour and they haven't kept many songs from it in their set, so I haven't seen much of it live, and this song is one of my favourites and also one of the ones I think is best suited to playing live.
Next they played "Spy," which isn't a song I love all that much normally, but the improv part when they do it live is fun. John conducted first, and then Flans took a turn too.
John was off to the side of the stage for a minute talking to one of the guys from the crew.
JF: John is talking to Fresh, who is the newest member of our crew. JL: *returning* That's why he's called "Fresh." JF: *I* know why he's called "Fresh." JL: My nickname in this band is "Stale."
Next they played "Letterbox," yay!!! That's my third-fav song on *Flood*--I *really* love it. Afterwards Flans said the song is too short--I didn't think it was very nice of him to be dissing one of John's songs, and anyway, "Letterbox" is perfect just the way it is. He said they should've done a second half of the song where they just reversed it, and then it could've been a single and also they would've been "courting controversy with the backwards masking." John said the only controversy would've been why they'd done something that was such a bad idea. I couldn't tell if he was actually upset about Flans dissing his song or not.
After that they did "I Love You for Psychological Reasons," which is the *Phone Power* song they did on the spring tour that I hadn't seen before and was most excited about, cos it's in a three-way tie for my favourite song on that album. So that was super-exciting for me. Before the show I was worrying a little bit about having the lyrics down well enough to sing along just cos I haven't had as much time to memorize *Phone Power* as the other albums, but I actually ended up doing better than John did.
After that they played "Authenticity Trip," which is seriously a *perfect* live song, so I'm really glad it's the one from *Album Raises New and Troubling Questions* that they've made a regular part of the set. Also oh my god I seriously become a Flansgirl for a minute during the songs where he sings but doesn't play anything--he just looks SO COOL struttin' around stage. The fucking stage presence that man has, jesus CHRIST. It's amusing too cos it's such a contrast with the way *John* acts when he sings but doesn't play anything, i.e. spazzing around like a total dork, which is adorable as hell, yes, but most definitely not *cool.*
When Flans was getting his guitar ready for "I Can Help the Next in Line," he was doing these long, sustained notes, which he said was "an appropriate sound for the Fillmore."
So then they played that one and I gotta say, it was a *really* odd choice for the show. I find that song amusing in its own little way, but it's definitely one of the weakest songs on *Glean*, so to make it the *only* song of Joh's from that album that they played, when he has so much A+++ stuff on there? *Seriously*, guys?
JF: I didn't realize we were playing so many new songs in a row. JL: It's like the curse of having a bunch of new albums out..."Oh, it's nice that you guys are still *trying."* JF: After *Lincoln*... JL: It kind of fell off. I stopped listening for a couple of *decades*...But then I heard about this new tour and I thought hey, I'll give them another chance.
It's funny when they joke like this, but it makes me sad too, cos I hate the idea that they think people really think that. It just makes me want to reassure them that they're every bit as awesome as ever--I mean, *Glean* is one of my top favourite albums that they've *ever* done.
Next they played "Trouble Awful Devil Evil"--John is cute with his saxonette!
Flans was having some kind of problem with his mic stand, I think it was lowering when he didn't want it to? He said he's been to shows "where the performer is defeated by the mic stand," and he didn't want that to happen tonight.
Flans introduced "Science is Real" by saying it has been a controversial song for them because it "acknowledges the existence of science." Then some people in the crowd started chanting "SCI-ENCE! SCI-ENCE!" Flans responded by saying this was "an unhinged crowd that's going to stream into the streets, find the people who don't believe in science, and inflict science upon them."
So then they played "Science is Real." As the Disney songs go that's a pretty decent one, but I'm still just really generally not into those albums, so I'd rather they not play the stuff from them at regular shows. If I wanted to see kids' songs I'd go to a kids' show.
Afterwards Flans was raving about Marty's drumming skills. "It's like he's playing a sample, but it's real. It's like the robot has become human, which is what we all really want."
Then he said that there were only a couple more songs until the break between the sets.
JF: It'll reshuffle the deck. People in the back could end up in the front, people in the front could end up in the back, people in the balcony? Chicken fights. JL: These are hypotheticals, the chicken fights, not instructions.
The last three songs of the first set all ROCKED MY FACE OFF: "Twisting," "When Will You Die," and "Cyclops Rock." The last one I hadn't seen since the *Mink Car* tour 15 fucking years ago so that was a major surprise! And it's one of my fav songs on that album! And it's superfun live! So that was one of the show highlights for sure.
When they came out to start the second set, we all thought we knew what song they'd open with--Flans said they were gonna be playing the album in order, so that meant of course they'd start the set with "Dig My Grave" So you can imagine our surprise when they instead opened with "Space Suit"--that liar!
Afterwards Flans said that *Apollo 18* is the fourth They Might Be Giants album, and they feel "uniquely qualified" to play it considering they *are* They Might Be Giants. He said "Space Suit" was "a glimmer of the math rock future that we didn't pursue" (the "this song is a genre we didn't pursue" thing ended up turning into a hilarious running joke for the rest of the night). Then he explained that they *were* playing the album in order like he said, it was just *reverse* order, "in the spirit of the venue."
Then he started introducing "Fingertips." He said them playing it live had started as a challenge from Danny. He said that one day they were hanging out backstage "talking about politics and TV shows we hate, which is most of our backstage conversation," and that one of them said that "Fingertips" would be too hard to play live for them to ever do it, and Danny's response was saying "You're fucking wrong" and hitting them on the back of the head (John added that he also snapped towels at them). Flans said that they then discovered that they could indeed play "Fingertips" live if they just "had enough discipline and self-respect" and that it's like a good card trick because now that they know how to do it they're just going to keep doing it forever.
So then they played "Fingertips" and yes that song is really fun live, but also I've seen it a million times so it's not really all that exciting anymore. There are some parts I still love though, like the epicness of "I walk along darkened corridors," and "Girl you know it's true" during "I'm having a heart attack" still amuses me somehow.
After "Hypnotist of Ladies," Flans said that song was "a rockabilly direction we didn't go in, alas. No double bills with the Rock Cats at the Rock Hotel for 45 disgruntled rockabilly fans." (I wouldn't really describe "Hypnotist of Ladies" as rockabilly though.) John said he was "enjoying the narration," and Flans said something about "the *Unsolved Mysteries* guy who says like five words a minute." Then he said that *Apollo 18* was a CD that came in a longbox, "which cost $3 to produce and was thrown away immediately."
Then they played "Turn Around," which was my very first favourite TMBG song and still one of my most beloved ones, but I couldn't enjoy it as fully as I wanted to because I was running on very little sleep and also had eaten essentially nothing for the entire day, so there were a few points during the show where I felt pretty out of it. So that was really shitty for me. I hope I get to see it again.
The unpursued genre for "Turn Around" was "forensic swing." Flans acknowledged that this particular genre had "limited potential," but that there was a San Diego station that did well with it for awhile, and some good bands like the Red Hot Forensics and the Squirrel Forensics. "Some think it was a response to grunge, but I think it was its own thing."
Flans fucked up the beginning of "If I Wasn't Shy" and then explained it has a "broken fingers thing." Then he fucked it up *again*, poor guy. I've always liked that song but it's never been one of my top tracks on the album, so I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it live.
After "See the Constellation" Flans said they were in the "treacherous middle portion of Side 2." John said "Their Super Bowl hopes...were dashed" in an ominous voice.
"Which Describes How You're Feeling" was *really* fun live, and "Hall of Heads" was appropriately creepy.
After "Narrow Your Eyes" Flans said it was power pop and then wondered aloud if they were up to Side 1 yet. Someone yelled that it was a CD and Flans explained that it was also a cassette. "We were there too."
Then came the part of the show where John didn't know what the fuck he was talking about. He said they'd released a fake 8-track of the album. "I can picture the cover, it's purple." Yeh, do you know why it was purple, John? BECAUSE IT WASN'T *APOLLO 18*, IT WAS "PURPLE TOUPEE." If it were *Apollo 18* wouldn't the cover have, y'know, looked like the cover of *Apollo 18?* Wouldn't the fact that it was purple be a hint of what it actually was? Get your fact straight dude, geeeeeeeeeez.
Flans introduced "Dinner Bell" by saying they could've gone after a career of "Pavlovian anthems." That one was really fun live too.
"The Guitar" is one of those songs that no matter how many times I see it I never get sick of it--it's actually one of my top live songs. It's just SO MUCH FUN, and oh my god, Flans is SUCH A ROCKER.
"Spider" is silly and fun on the album and, as you might expect, silly and fun live too.
I wasn't really paying attention to the song order because of the reverse thing. It was actually really weird, it was like on some subconscious level I did know what was coming next, so I wasn't *fully* surprised by any of the songs, but, at the same time, if you'd actually asked me what the next song was I wouldn't have been able to tell you.
So it wasn't until John was going to the back of the stage to get his accordion after "Spider" that I realized what the song that comes before that is: "STATUE" "STATUE" "STATUE." Seeing that song live was by *far* the part of this show I was most looking forward to. Other than my namesake, "A Self Called Nowhere" (which I'm not holding my breath on), it's the highest-ranking song in my list of favourites that I'd never seen live, and I was fucking *psyched* about the idea of it. As awesome as I knew the other *Apollo 18* songs were gonna be, the prospect of "The Statue Got Me High" alone would've made the entire trip to San Francisco worth it.
Well, I am please to report that it very much did *not* disappoint. It was every bit as MOTHERFUCKING COMPLETELY AWESOME live as I expected it to be. Seeing them play it was one of the highlights of this entire *year* for me, not even exaggerating.
Afterwards John said he felt like they were "getting younger" and Flans said "We're eating those Benjamin Buttons." Then people were yelling requests, which, considering what this part of the show was, was really fucking stupid (about as stupid as someone yelling for "Fingertips" in the first set). It was stupid enough that Flans called them out on it--"We're playing an album in sequence. We've got to all come together on this. If we start taking requests the wheels are just gonna fall off completely."
"Mammal" and "My Evil Twin" were both really fun. "She's Actual Size" as all right but nothing will ever compare to Dan Hickey's Dial-A-Drum-Solo performances on the *Mink Car* tour.
Flans said they were playing again tomorrow in Berkley and that the show was sold out but if you were "intimidating enough" you could get tickets from somebody else. John suggested you "put your chicken fighting skills to good use."
"Dig My Grave" was definitely one of the show highlights. I always love super-rockin' stuff live, and it doesn't get much more super-rockin' than that.
When they came back for the first encore:
JL: I have to say this in public: I fell over a chair backstage. It really hurt. JF: It wasn't just any chair John, it was the kind of chair you fall over *in the dark*...He's ok. JL: I'm ok, but just.
Poor baby!!! I wanted to comfort him, awwwwwwww. I did think it was rather odd that he would come right out and admit to a huge crowd of strangers that he did something really klutzy, particularly when he's so easily embarrassed, but yeh it really made me want to take care of him.
The first encore was FUCKING AWESOME, "Dead" and then "Birdhouse in Your Soul." During "Birdhouse" there was so much energy in the room and everyone was so *happy* and I was just thinking about what a perfect beautiful moment it was and how there was absolutely nowhere in the whole world I would rather be.
In between the two songs Flans said he wanted to thank everyone in the crowd individually, including the VIPs ("we don't know how you got in here--don't steal our shit"), and John held up his hands in the shape of a rhombus and said "Rhombus!", which he did again after the first verse of "Birdhouse." I have no clue whatsoever what *that* was about, but it was pretty damn silly/cute.
During the second encore Flans thanked us again and said, "We know you have your choice of TMBG-like bands"--no we don't, Flans, there is *no one* like y'all!
They closed with "Damn Good Times," which was fab. That song is so high-energy and fun live, and I like it when they choose songs like that for closers.