Shows/1989-02-22

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Setlist: (incomplete and possibly out of order)


Fan Recaps and Comments:

"Some lightweight fun from They" by Paul Robicheau
Boston Globe, Feb. 25, 1989:

They Might Be Giants' rise in popularity is pretty baffling. The Brooklyn-based duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell play short pop tunes that are witty, quirky, silly, even nerdy. But nothing really deep. At best, the Giants are a cute novelty act.

So how would one explain the duo selling out the Paradise at midweek? Or the Giants' second LP, "Lincoln" (they originate from that Massachusetts town), climbing Billboard's Top 100, leading to their recent signing with major label Elektra? A lot of folks are oddly charmed by their giddy style, and the cult has crossed over to the mainstream. They Might Be Giants are like the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" duo of underground pop.
So, while Bobby McFerrin was scooping up Grammy Awards for that song Wednesday, the Giants were sweeping through 21 of their zany tunes in 65 minutes at the Paradise. "And the crowd went, wild," Flansburgh joked as he paused to fix his guitar, and fans played up his hint. If jazz-rooted McFerrin can top the pop charts, perhaps the Giants can too. After all, "Don't Let's Start," from their 1986 debut LP, was a fluke favorite on MTV.
Well, let's not count chickens. They Might Be Giants surely don't have the wide-ranging talent of a musician like McFerrin. Singer-guitarist Flansburgh and singer-accordionist Linnell have streamlined and beefed up their sound, evidenced from the start at the Paradise by Flansburgh's punklike chording on "Purple Toupee." But, apart from a fan who was invited on stage to thump a stick on beat-jazz tune "Lie Still, Little Bottle," all rhythms were on tape — and it was overbearing in the mix.
The duo offered some perky, catchy tunes, notably "Santa's Beard" and "Rhythm Section Want Ad" (rarely played but soundly cheered by fans). A change of pace was provided in "I'll Sink Manhattan," where Linnell honked a baritone sax behind Flansburgh's exaggerated crooning, and "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" stood out with weird guitar and accordion harmonies. "Number Three" was a cappella by contrast, with the hummable line "I've got two songs in me, and I just wrote the third."

If They Might Be Giants continue to grow without writing music of a bit more substance, it would provide a scary proposition, but at least a harmless one with funny targets.

"Giants Make It Big" by David Weinstein
The Justice, Feb. 28, 1989:

"Let's hear it for They Might Be Giants. They've just signed to a major label," boomed WFNX DJ Duane Bruce from the Paradise stage Wednesday night.

I expected the packed audience to meet this announcement regarding their underground favorites with loud "boos" and murmurs of a "sell-out". I was wrong. The crowd went nuts. In a small way, the fans shared the two Giants' commercial success on Elektra Records.
On stage, They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh, guitar and John Linnell, accordion) minimize their positions as "stars". These two Johns are regular guys, happy to take the fans along for a ride on their rock and rollercoaster. The two Lincoln, Mass. natives casually took the Paradise stage dressed in jeans and t-shirts.

During the second song of their 75-minute set, a rock-polka, Flansburgh pushed his guitar into the crowd, persuading an excited audience member to thrash a couple of power chords. But the highlight of the show came later, the guitarist brought a woman up to rhythmically bang the stage with a giant stick during "Lie Still, Little Bottle".
The Giants spiced the show with funny between song banter. Like musical David Lettermans, they used their positions on stage to make fun of the entertainment industry. At one point, Flansburgh broke the between song silence by asking in a mock reporter's tone, "How do you feel about being in Newsweek?" He answered without skipping a beat, "It was the pinnacle of our career. It's all downhill from here. Look at the Boss."

Oh, by the way, They Might Be Giants were also surprisingly good musicians live. Flansburgh established his credibility early, when he cut loose on "Blue Toupee" [sic]. As he jerked around the stage, the noisy guitar seemed to control him. Linnell's accordion gave the band a weird, unique edge, but it didn't distract from their overall rock sound. As on the records, a drum machine ("a box containing Ginger Baker's midget brother," according to Flansburgh) served as the rhythm section. Although each Giant's voice was whiny and grating over time, together their harmonies worked well.

In addition to playing a healthy portion of Lincoln, their latest LP, the duo included popular older material from their self-titled debut. "Don't Let's Start" and "Number 3" were particular crowd favorites. The latter song worked well live, as the Giants stepped back from their mics and broke into a sort of choreographed dance step. It was easy to laugh as each Giant did a sort of semi-circle on his side of the stage.