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Review by crow

It's always nice to know that music theory still holds some water with the rock groups of now-time. Performing is an art, and balancing performance with theory in a rock concert is a juggling act on top of that. I was happy to see They Might Be Giants relish in using the power of the pitch to their expertise on Thursday evening, 10-18-01, and all the way through to very early Friday morning, the next day. The long show still held captivation; I think that was mainly due to the aesthetic qualities of their performing style. (I'd also be amiss to not point out that most of the attendees of TMBG concerts are long-time listeners anyway, such as myself, that have appreciated the band's development and artistic endeavors over time.) But to bri3fly elaborate on the effectiveness of their performance energy, if an audience member glanced away for a short moment, lots of miniature, nonverbal affairs between the band members were missed. The band had fun with the dynamics of their music and they made their music work for them. I was also noticing some of the little nuances in their musical tactics. Dan Miller was a very talented soloist on his guitar, and it's very clear that he knows a thing or two about the driving force of emotion behind improvisation. Flansburgh mainly stuck to playing rhythm guitar, but he was very stylistic with it and added harmonies of interest not heard in the controlled atmosphere of CD recordings. It is very appropriate, I think, however, for Flans to be playing rhythm guitar, because he also has this very evident connection with beats and rhythms, using a rhythm stick in the show (and I can also recall a time he made an appearance on MTV playing some basic background drums with Linnell's accordion). I think he could be a very good drummer as well as guitar player if that was his thing.
I also had a nice opportunity to see Linnell voicing the chords to Particle Man on his accordion, so I got an idea of how he maneuvers harmonically through songs. Though Particle Man is a simple song dealing only with tonic chords, subdominants and dominants, I saw some very interesting techniques he used on the keys that are very reminiscent of the jazz music in bands he's played in, in years past. He inverts most of his chords so that not only do they sound less straightforward and plain, but he was able to very easily switch from chord to chord, only having to move one or two fingers to voice another version of a new chord. And it seemed like he didn't voice all of them the same way over and over; he'd move up and down inversions based on the emotional direction that the song was taking at the moment. He's also a very good improv opportunist when he wants to be, totally changing melodic parts of a song completely which, pleasingly, results in different harmonies never before explored in the song on the CD versions.
But this isn't all about theory, though it sounds like it with the way that I'm going on about it. As a final note, I have to give particular recognition to my personal favorite drummer of all modern rock, Dan Hickey, for his performance awareness, rhythmic skills, and enthusiasm. Incredibly, he was able to put a unique personality into about thirteen different solo segments during his big, long drum solo, which was loosely conducted very tastefully by the good-witted Flansburgh. Hickey definitely uses the drum as his artist's brush to help paint the mood for all the songs TMBG performed, as well as create all those different flavors on his own during the solo. Many drummers are good at establishing rhythm and keeping a band together, but Hickey takes it a step farther and creates a different mix of cymbals, snares, and bass drum, and applies it to the humungously large repertoire of rhythms he's learned/mixed and matched in his years of playing experience, and it creates a different mood and a different, highly-moving rhythm each time.
These were the main bits that I noticed about the music. I must admit that I didn't notice too much, as the energy level of the band's performance had me so gripped most of the time that I was just glued to their dancing, playing, Flansburgh's amusing jumping, and the all-around stage cavorting of the entire band. The majority of the band members also took part in the disturbing act of coming dangerously close to the front row. I think if I didn't move back, a couple of times we would have accidentally bumped into one another. The trails and tribulations of being the front line.... Yet when I thought about it (and think of it now), the emotional reaction brought upon by the random and intense intimacy of the band members (especially Flans, who seemed right at home with the front row that evening) gave my show experience an unusual emotional high that kind of wafted throughout my head, making the place seem especially surreal, helped by the heavy cloud of cigarette smoke that made the lights behave strangely and made visibility terribly low along the ranks. A wonderful experience that will live in me for a long time to come, and I am thankful to everyone that made that show possible.