I just had the awesome pleasure of seeing NRBQ and They Might be Giants the Wolf Trap Farm in VA. There's no question about it, really; they are giants at making clean, fun, and warped music.
I was exposed to TMBG first when I was introduced to Particle Man (a song about the environment (: which, unfortunately, wasn't played) in a compilation tape. I went and bought a few of their CDs after hearing Kiss Me Son of God (which was another conspicous absence), I Palindrome I, and Birdhouse in Your Soul (which was played, much to the delight of a very effervescent crowd and which, incidentally, garnered the most votes for a favourite song in the TMBG survey I recently posted). Their self-indulgence and love for making music, somewhat reminscent of The Beatles, is clearly evident in their studio releases and they became one of my favourite bands.
And finally I got a chance to see them live: The acoustics at the Wolf Trap are much better on the lawn than inside and the atmosphere is brilliant (with low amounts of alcohol and smoke). NRBQ (founded as the New Rhythm and Blues Quintet), a band formed in 1968 opened, and their age showed. They performed a 1.5 hour set and it was quite decent: a lot of their stuff sounded like '50's rock 'n' roll.
"The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace. Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees." ---They Might be Giants, Why Does the Sun Shine?
It was warm when TMBG came on. Before the concert, I expected TMBG live to sound the same as they do in their albums. Not so. This belief was dashed to the ground when they played Why Does the Sun Shine? at a super-fast pace! It really was a delight to hear a faster version. In fact, a couple of their songs were speeded up and, indeed, this is the way it should be. The best live shows I've enjoyed are when the group adds a punch to their songs that is not apparent in the cleverly mixed studio albums. This was seen in almost all the songs that were played. They really had the crowd going and moving around (that's another sign of a good concert---if you work up a good sweat). Previously, my best concert was Primus which incited a similar crowd response and it's really hard to say which one was better; suffice to say they are the two best concerts I've been to.
"Words fail. Buildings tumble. The ground opens wide." Matt and I were singing that during a pause between songs and guess what the next song turned out to be?
"You're the cutest thing I ever did see. I really love your peaches wanna shake your tree." Another particularly high point was when they played The Joker by Steve Miller. I loved it! I wonder if it will be in their new album. Again, this is a sign of a self-indulgent group!
If they could do Fingertips live, it'd be awesome: "their latest release, Apollo 18, is one of the first CDs to take full advantage of the shuffle mode common on today's CD players. The song is `Fingertips' is composed of a series of 21 separate refrains, and in shuffle mode, a CD player mixes up songs, making the random refrains of `fingertips' an ever-changing musical collage." I have never tried this before, but I will the next time I goto my room.
Other songs that were played included The Guitar, I Palindrome I, Don't Let's Start, Istanbul (not Constantinople), Dig My Grave, The Statue got Me High, Turn Around, Your Racist Friend, Twisting, Whistling in the Dark, Purple Toupee, and 6-7 songs from the new album titled John Henry, which is slated for release on September 20.
Notable abscences: Ana Ng, She's an Angel, Dinner Bell...
Song that got the best crowd response: Birdhouse in Your Soul.
Most bothersome thing to TMBG: Flies in Linell's mouth.
Most bothersome thing to me: Their encore was only 3 minutes long with Spy.
Other interesting trivia: TMBG are John Linell (on accordion) and John Flansburgh (guitar), who get their name from a movie from the early seventies. The current band line-up includes Brian Doherty (drums and glockenspiel), Tony Maimone (bass), and Kurt Hoffman (sax, keyboards) and Steven Bernstein (on trumpet).
"And while you're at it, leave the nightlight on inside the birdhouse in your soul." ---They Might be Giants, Birdhouse in Your Soul