Sunday, 6 February 2011

790 THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS "Here Comes Science" Family Show, London Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 26 June 2010

So, US indie pop masters of all that is quirky, geeky (in a clever rather than nerdish sense) and unorthodox, They Might Be Giants, hit the UK again after a 5 year hiatus with 2 shows on the same day, the evening gig a "normal" one (insofar as how close TMBG ever get to being normal!), and a matinee "family" performance showcasing their recent kid-orientated output, particularly current CD "Here Comes Science". TMBG had always had a jokey, abstract humour to their offbeat and instantly memorable US-alt indie pop tunes, so output targeted at a younger audience was a logical extension. This then was a great opportunity to take my 12 year old son Evan to his first ever gig; we'd been playing "No!" to him in the car since he was 5, and he'd enjoyed it so much he'd since "graduated" to TMBG's "adult" releases, but was nevertheless well up for this!

So, I picked him up from North Wales Friday, and we caught the train to London on a baking hot Saturday morning. Over to Embankment via Notting Hill Record Exchange to flog some old vinyl, hitting the South Bank in good time for packed lunch by the banks of the Thames, and a wander around a couple of exhibitions; in keeping with the "Science" theme, The Festival Hall was hosting a Science Fayre with lots of interactive stands, and also a "Flying Dinosaurs" exhibit with models of various Pterodactyls! This killed time enjoyably until we were called into the auditorium at 10 to 2. Took our seats about 2/3 back in the stalls, stage left, with a great view not only of the stage, but of a fantastic radio-controlled helium filled flying penguin circling the hall! Lots of families and kids in the crowd; Evan may actually have been one of the older kids present, as a 6 year old girl bounced in her seat behind me, excitedly exclaiming, "I love this band!"

The 5-piece They Might Be Giants took the stage at 1/4 past 2, easing into "Fibber Island" from their first "kids" CD, 2002's "No!" The sound was understandably more muted than for a "normal" gig, the house lights were dimmed but on pretty much throughout, and the set concentrated on the kid-orientated material, particularly "Here Comes Science". Nevertheless, TMBG didn't make too many concessions in their performance; an intermittent confetti cannon (particularly during a surprising "Older") and a lot of audience participation stuff is normal practice for them, and the offbeat humour was evident throughout. A splendid "813 Mile Road Trip" segueing into "Dr. Worm" was an early highlight, although the subsequent "Polka" lost a lot of it's normal oomph. "Why Does The Sun Shine?" was a silly "Pirate cabaret" version, with the 2 Johns adopting comedy "aaarrrr" accents and changing lyrics around to suit the pirate theme. "The Avatars Of They", a couple of sock puppets projected onto a big screen, were a funny interlude, particularly during encore "Stalk Of Wheat", and a final "Alphabet Of Nations", with a few alternative nations thrown in(!) was my highlight of a thoroughly entertaining set.

"We know what a long term commitment getting a child into a car can be," said enthusiastic frontman John Flansburgh at the end of the set, as a final confetti shower drew the 1 hour 20 performance to a close. We trotted down the front, picking our way through kids grabbing handfuls of confetti, and grabbed a set-list, before kicking around the Science stands one more time then heading back on the train. Not the usual TMBG gig, but enjoyable nevertheless from my perspective; and more importantly first-time gigger Evan thought it was, "brilliant!"

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