TV on the Radio Recasts Songs, Energizes Crowd at the Independent

Categories: Last Night

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Ian S. Port
TV on the Radio at the Independent last night.
TV on the Radio
IO ECHO
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Better than: Must See TV

What's great about a TV on the Radio show? Well, there's the fact, for better and occasionally for worse (mostly when the sound personnel aren't up to the job), that the songs are never quite carbon copies of their on-record counterparts, and sometimes there's a wonderful moment of delayed recognition where you can't identify a song that's just started. There's the band's musicianship, from Jaleel Bunton's effortless timekeeping to Tunde Adebimpe's effortless rubber-ducky croon. There's the apparent fact that nothing from the catalog is off-limits, meaning they're liable to play "Young Liars" (which, as is par for the band's oldest songs, gets most aggressively reworked), make a clapalong jam of "A Method," and hit a few surprise points in between. There's the simple exhilaration of watching a phenomenally good band do its thing and break an honest sweat doing it.

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Ian S. Port
What was great about this particular TV on the Radio show? Well, Kyp Malone looked like some combination of Jerry Garcia and a mushroom and the G-spot from an old Sifl and Olly sketch; Adebimpe's fishy, finger-wagging dance moves were in full effect; the Tuesday night crowd was, to hear the band tell it, just a little better at refracting the energy than the Monday night crowd.

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Ian S. Port
The set started out a little rough, a little indistinct and monochromatic; on "Halfway Home" and for a few songs that followed, the intricacy Dave Sitek puts on record got lost in the shuffle and volume. When the band it hit its stride, though, around "Red Dress," it became clearer than ever that it's the songs themselves that carry the moment at a TV on the Radio show, not this or any given performance of them. So what if you can't hear the unsettling piano counterpoint in "Province" or the broken-down judder of "Staring at the Sun"? A live show for this band functions as a reminder that its songs don't need their Sitekian ornamentation, that they stand up beautifully to the relative austerity of live energy. Also, someone actually crowdsurfed at one point.

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Ian S. Port

Opening was Los Angeles's IO ECHO, whose bio on the Independent website reads, in full:

IO ECHO'S SONGS ARE PRODUCED BY LEOPOLD ROSS (KORN, ERROR.) SHE IS FROM THE EAST COAST. SHE WRITES SONGS IN A LATE HOUR LOCKED IN A BEDROOM SITUATION. SHE PLAYS THE GUITAR AND KEYBOARDS. IO ECHO IS NOW BEING PLAYED ON 103.1 with 'Addicted' being labeled "Song of the Day"

Confusing. The ensemble consisted of Joanna Gikas, a serially earnest lady wearing a cape (or was it a Snuggie?), flanked by four ascetic Dudes with Interesting Haircuts. The whole sense of drama was outdated -- Gikas, who has a perfectly nice singing voice à la Karen O or Dolores O'Riordan, kept lifting her arms up in a sort of fabric-draped Christ pose as she sang things like "You're the boy I choose to love" and "Bring me to life" and "Can you hear the singing swan?" -- but there was nothing wrong with the band's alterna-dirgemongering that wasn't very right in 1995. 

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Ian S. Port
IO ECHO
To their credit, the band members didn't seem to let opening for TV on the Radio go to their heads too much: they were a little out of their depth and knew it, mule-with-a-spinning-wheel-style, but they didn't put on airs. They were just as cool and/or lame as they would have been under any circumstances.

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Ian S. Port
TV on the Radio
Critic's notebook: 

Disclaimer: Lighting conditions were difficult. A nontrivial portion of my notes turned out to be illegible.
Personal bias: My feelings on TV on the Radio can be hard for me to separate from my feelings on America writ large sometimes, owing to a particularly stellar show I saw shortly after Obama's election, which skews the critical radar a little bit. Still, I can report being just as happy and proud as ever to watch them, in a way altogether unrelated to the recent death of Osama bin Laden.

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Ian S. Port
TV on the Radio

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Location Info

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The Independent

628 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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2 comments
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Frank Cohen
Frank Cohen

This is the worst piece of try-hard critic garbage I've ever read in my life.  Both bands were brilliant. Either you're a failed musician or a failed novelist.  Or worse: both.  

Guest
Guest

Yeah, so it was the same set as Monday night, the same set they've been playing at EVERY gig? That's kinda wack. Also, I don't know about the Tuesday night show, but the sound guy on Monday night was TERRIBLE. The highs were nearly unbearable, their signing voices were often distorted on the high end (especially Adebimpe's), and the mix would change mid-song.

That said, the show was a stormer. Fuck everyone there who stood stock-still the whole time; I haven't seen a crowd that lame since I lived in Chicago, the home of non-dancing, non-moving lameasses.

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