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The show on October 18, 1997, was my first TMBG concert experience, and I must say I was overwhelmingly pleased. The venue was pretty much a mini-replica of a theatre, but the stage and room were so small that the crowd was very intimate and very close to the Johns.
I had heard about them touring with brass, but none of that tonight; it was just the Johns, bass, and drums. John L. played keyboards the entire time, except for Lie Still Little Bottle, when he played the bari sax, and Particle Man when he played the accordion. John F. played his red Epiphone (I believe) until he broke the strings at the finale, and for the encores he broke out his cool guitar in the shape of the letter W (I've seen it on TV, but live, I recall there being two little power gauges with needles moving on the base of the guitar... I covet that guitar!)
They had no introduction, but just went straight into the a capella I Am Not Your Broom. After that, they opened with James K. Polk. In the middle of the song, John F. checked out the confetti canons, which were malfunctioning, and he sadly told the audience that they would not work. But then, when the song got to the climactic "he sought no second term," the canons went off! I don't know if they planned it as such, but it was great. Among my random recollections: Birdhouse in Your Soul was tremendous with strobe lights. I loved Sleeping in the Flowers, which the Johns told us was about drugs. During Spy, John L. thrust his keyboard into the audience and let them bang some keys. At one point, John L. said, "OK, we've got to stop the show, because someone in the audience has a question... Her question was, who wins when Particle Man fights Triangle Man?" They played one song completely in the dark, just for a change of pace. My favorite point in the concert was when they improvised a song called Ringo Starr Had the Easiest Job In The World; it went like, "John, Paul, or George came up to Ringo and said, Can you put a backbeat to this? Ringo Starr had the easiest job in the world." When Dan Hickey came to play the glockenspiel on Shoehorn with Teeth, John L. commented, "No more Mr. Nice Band." John F. used the "stick" for Lie Still Little Bottle; it was excruciatingly loud. They also did standards like Letterbox, Twisting, Ana Ng, Don't Let's Start, and S~E~X~X~Y. A rockin show for any band.
Their first encore began with the puppet heads doing Exquisite Dead Guy. Then No One Knows My Plan brought the conga line to fruition, and then perennial favorites Particle Man and Istanbul. They then came out for a second encore. They introduced the band; the bass player, whose name I forget, played the theme from Barney Miller, which was incredibly cool. They closed with The Guitar, with "the lion waves goodbye." It was quite an experience, one I hope to repeat as soon as possible.