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Setlist: (incomplete and possibly out of order)

They Might Be Giants
— with Family Gotown opening —
Bloomsbury Theatre in London, UK
February 4, 1992

Fan Recaps and Comments:

Show review from The Evening Standard, February 5 1992:

They Might Be Giants are not exactly vertically challenged, but they certainly are a pair of prize wallies - and proud of it too.

John Flansburgh and John Linnell have successfully turned something that started life as a high-school hobby in their native Massachusetts into a traveling mini-revue. They used to run a Phone-a-song fan line in New York and still operate like a wacky cottage industry. Their music is as minimal as it gets. Flansburgh's guitar, which looks like a Scandinavian sideboard, is the chief focus of a gentle attack with Linnell's accordion providing the melodic interest. For backing, the Giants rely on a variety of cheesy tapes which serve as a rhythm section. Time-keeping is not a problem for the odd couple since the songs are so brief.

They Might Be Giants' collegiate humour can be wearisome, but when they manage to transcend their own jug-band whimsy the results are as startling as the freak hit single Birdhouse In Your Soul. They acted like jokers and suddenly got deadly serious with a gripe and a cutting remark. It was a method that suited Your Racist Friend and the deeply paranoid Mammal. Flansburgh, the beefy one with the glasses and the K-Mart clothes, played the sardonic host and cracked jokes in between song bites. `I'd like to remind you that you're in a theatre,' he chastised one heckler with mock pomposity. Not easy to forget actually, since the Bloomsbury is a venue with less atmosphere than the planet Jupiter.

Despite the limitations of the set-up the Giants don't lack variety. The shy and retiring Linnell is adept at pulling out all the stops on his squeeze box, and when he isn't pursuing the lost chord his partner scrapes a fair-sized racket out his six-stringed monstrosity. We Want A Rock and Dig My Grave, one of relatively few numbers featured from the forthcoming Apollo 18 album, promised a variation on traditional structure without getting bogged down by convention - and suggested that the duo will retain their cult status and let the hits follow on by accident.

Show review from The Financial Times, February 7 1992:

There are two of them, both called John. One plays the piano accordion (rather well) and the bass clarinet; the other brandishes a home-made guitar and occasionally launches brutal attacks upon an unsuspecting drum kit. They take turns to deliver their short, sharp songs, favouring an adenoidal New York whine which despite itself is sometimes blended into Everly Brothers sugarsweet harmony.

Like all genuine eccentrics They Might Be Giants defy sensible categorisation; they seem at the same time determinedly anarchic and perfectly unself-conscious. Contemporary rock is not short on artists who take themselves too seriously, so it is sheer delight to find an act so determined to send up everything in sight, themselves included.

It is all made to seem so utterly guileless; hard to believe that the duo learnt their trade busking on Brooklyn's East River and yet still managed to keep their wide-eyed freshness intact. The meanings of their songs come shrouded beneath coatings of nursery-rhyme lyrics and hand-me down pop riffs; only rarely are their teeth bared. A number like 'Your racist friend', seems shocking for the directness of its message, especially when surrounded by 'Birdhouse in Your Soul' ('I'm not your only friend, but I'm a little glowing friend') or 'Particle Man' ('Is he a dot or is he a speck? When he's underwater does he get wet?').

It seems appropriately illogical that They Might Be Giants are touring Britain almost two months before their new album (the fourth) is due to be released here. There was a sprinkling of those latest songs at the Bloomsbury, but most of their set was devoted to singalong favourites. The audience bounced happily through the best of Flood (which appeared in 1990), confident in the knowledge that nothing was going to last longer than a couple of minutes and that a high percentage of the songs have the kind of naggingly memorable melody lines and surreal lyrics which will run through the brain for hours afterwards.

Try hard enough and almost any influence you care to mention is stirred into the mix somewhere - a dash of Buddy Holly and the Beatles here, some Tom Waits and Elvis Costello there - but the worst thing that could happen would be for They Might Be Giants to make it too big and find themselves absorbed into the rock mainstream. Playing Wembley Arena with an army of roadies and real session musicians to replace the marvellously tacky backing tapes just wouldn't be the same, and nothing like so exhilarating.

Show review from David Rose's Gig Diaries blog:[1]

Support Family Go Town were on at 8 - an early one, this, good thing we got an early train! - and played the sort of innocuous zeitgeisty dance pop blast that would have sounded more apt as support to Thousand Yard Stare, for example. We decanted to the bar and sampled Mr. Branigan's beer nuts instead!

This odd Brooklyn two-piece, They Might Be Giants, actually featured a drumkit this time (well, one snare and one cymbal, at least) instead of the lectern-mounted metronome, but their musical approach is still sparse, tinny, clever-clever without venturing into smugness, and as funny as a barrel of monkeys. Being appointed the Official Band of International Space Year (allegedly) hasn't changed them; "we're promoting a record that isn't out for two months, so this next song represents the non-audience participation element of the show!"

"I Palindrome I" (whaaaat??) was the most memorable of the new stuff; "We Want A Rock" and oldie "Don't Let's Start" the best of the more familiar material. However, everyone was a winner as usual. Another remarkable show from an idiosyncratic yet thoroughly entertaining band!