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Fan Recaps and Comments:
A review of the show by James Robert
New Musical Express, Jan. 28, 1989:
OH, HOW we larf. The kids they love to be in on the joke, and this is one big joke. Two bloody big heads hang in the air at the rear end of the stage, grinning over the proceedings like goofball big brothers. Two considerably smaller noddies, though very smart ones, entertain us with the music of their guitar and accordion or sexy sax.
Their taped accompaniment embelishes the sound occassionally with keyboard noises and belts out a stonking beat throughout. All very smooth. One of the boys looks like Clark Kent, wields a mad axe and talks a lot. Wendy James is here. Shoo! The other boy has a cute long floppy fringe, switches instruments and talks alot. "Please don't jump around, you're scaring us!" They both sing a lot too, and very professionally in a gimpy kinda way, I must say.
They Might Be Giants are an unusual group because they write humanitarian pop songs about cranes and lamp posts. They know a catchy tune when they hear one, but have a knack of dragging down said melody into some irritating smart arse jingle. They probably own a lot of Frank Zappa records, I'd love to love 'em, really I would. But they're much too clever to be funny, I'm afraid.
From "Mark's Half-Baked Music Blog" by Mark Rogers:
I saw them on the 28th [sic] at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, which seems to be a pretty storied venue (and now a fancy restaurant), but it seemed to me at the time to be some sort of West Indian community center and was then kind of in the middle of a mostly residential neighborhood. It was brutally cold and I had arrived incredibly early, walking from Ladbroke Grove (I think) with a vague plan to scope out the venue and then grab a beer and some food before the show. Unfortunately, there seemed to be nothing in the neighborhood and I had had enough trouble finding the place that I wasn’t keen on exploring a lot.
So I was standing outside shivering when a transit van pulled up and a couple of guys started unloading equipment. I asked them if they were roadies and they laughed and said no, they were Ruff, Ruff, and Ready, one of the support bands. I was unaware that there would be support bands, but spotting an opportunity to go inside and get out of the cold, I asked if I could help them carry stuff.
They graciously accepted, but were generally very busy setting up. A second van showed up and I helped them move more amps. While they set up and then disappeared into a dressing room, I sat on a chair, trying very hard to look like I had a reason to be there (rather than out in the cold). About forty minutes later, John Linnell and John Flansburgh showed up for a sound check. One of the event staff (large man with dreads) gave me a squirrely look, but I put on my best “please sir, it’s very cold outside and I promise to pay to get in when I can.” He asked one of the Johns if they cared, and John (F. I think) shrugged. So I watched the soundcheck and then the two Johns left and I was booted out, but when the doors opened twenty minutes later, I was first in line.
Ruff, Ruff, and Ready were kind of a two-tone ska revival thing. They were okay, but fell well short of Madness or the Beat. John Wesley Harding,* with two other guys playing acoustic guitars, did a short set—billed as the three wise men I think.
When the headliners finally came on around nine, I had been hanging around The Tabernacle for at least four hours, but I had a great spot right next to the stage (and a place to put my coat and bag in a little cubby hole behind a speaker).
The show was great — TMBG only had two albums at that point but those albums (their eponymous debut and Lincoln) are filled with great songs and the band were (and continue to be) enthusiastic performers. When they asked for a volunteer from the audience, I am not sure if I raised my hand, but I must have looked eager (and perhaps they remembered me from the soundcheck) as John F. called me up onto the stage.Those of you who have witnessed me performing my magic on the dance floor fully understand that rhythm is not one of my gifts. I expect I was pretty horrible at doing my job (and the internet leads me to believe that they may have started doing the stick banging themselves in later shows, which I hope is not solely my fault). Anyway, it was my moment of glory. I got to go backstage after the show and had John and John sign the article from Time Out promoting the show (sadly, I must have lost that scrap of paper sometime in the last 25 years).
John F. talked to the audience while John L. took me to the back of the stage and handed me a giant stick (seriously-it was a tree branch that was about seven feet long and weighed around twenty pounds). My job was to bang the stick on the stage in rhythm to the song “Lie Still, Little Bottle.” He said “it’s a back beat, so do it on the off-beat.”