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Setlist: (incomplete and possibly out of order)
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Tickets were $18.50.
"Giants Might be Even Better Live" by Chris Kelley
The John Hopkins University Newsletter, Sept. 25, 1992:
To be honest, I went to this concert with mixed expectations. Although the albums Flood and Apollo 18 proved They Might Be Giants members John Linnell and John Flansburgh to be more than adept in the studio, I wondered how their music would translate to a live setting. 1990's Flood tour featured the two musicians amidst banks of sequencers, drum machines, and keyboards, but this time they were going at it with a full band — their first completely live tour. I was skeptical, to say the least.
From the first moment the headlining act hit the stage, my fears were dispelled. It was obvious that the band was well rehearsed and the arrangements were tight. Despite a few awkward moments near the beginning of their set, the band — Linnell and Flansburgh plus Tony Maimone on bass, Kurt Hoffman on keyboards, and John Steinberg on drums — was on the money the whole night.
Like the musical schizophrenics they are, Linnell and Flansburgh did indeed prove that they are influenced by just about everything. Swing rhythms, bluegrass, funk and absurd polka rhythms pervaded everything they played. No one tune stood out above the rest, but the set worked as a whole because of the diversity of the music.
Most of the material performed was from the band's latest two albums, but it was the material from Flood, the band's 1990 breakthrough album, that drew the most audience appreciation. Among the first few songs were crowd favorites "Your Racist Friend," (redone in a bluegrass vein) and "Particle Man." Multi-instrumentalists Hoffman (who also doubled on tenor and baritone saxes, as well as clarinet) and Linnell (who also played baritone and clarinet) made sure that all of the quirky instrumental solos were there as well, from the clarinet duo on "Cowtown" to the big-bandlike swing of "She's Actual Size."
For most of the night, the band played it straight, with more emphasis on musical performance than putting on a show however, it seemed obvious to me that the band was enjoying themselves on stage. Most musicians will tell you that there is no comparison to playing with a live rhythm section. While Tony Maimone was simply adequate as a bassist, percussionist Steinberg was all over the place, nailing every accent and coercing the other musicians to play harder. He made the other musicians sound like a real rock ensemble, rather than a novelty act.
By the middle of the set, Flansburgh had seemingly shaken off the ill effects of his high temperature, and bantered with the audience before the "Stump The Band" section, which has become an integral part of theeir live shows lately. One of the front-row teenyboppers suggested that the band try the Doors' "People are Strange," and Flansburgh agreed (I had heard Linnell warm up on accordion playing "Light My Fire" during the soundcheck, so I had an idea that he knew it). It turned out to be more of a comedy routine than a performance, with the bassist often playing the wrong notes and Flansburgh forgetting the words, often resorting to yelling "You're Strange!" After this, the band loosened up, with Flansburgh flaunting his metal-guitar hero impersonation to the front row.
After a 90-minute set, the band reappeared for an encore performance that included favorites like "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (not Constantinople)." The latter featured a section where Linnell and Flansburgh sang descending tones into highly-reverbed microphones amidst waves of amplifier feedback. Now that was the weirdness that I expected from them. Finally, they closed with a version of Edgar Winter's classic instrumental "Frankenstein," which was easily the coolest thing they played all night. Chalk one up for live performances.