When I first listened to TV On The Radio’s latest album, Dear Science, it didn’t hit me. I was in the middle of a huge Of Montreal infatuation and just wasn’t ready to digest it yet. One week later, I was blown away by the textures and the contours of the Dear Science landscape. Knowing I had a ticket to their Philly show made me one happy man.
Last time TVOTR toured the area they played the Starlight Ballroom (also in Philly) , which was arguably the best show of 2006. It was an all out, jaw-dropping show and one of the best live performances I had ever seen. Their increase in popularity brought them to a bigger venue this time around, but their set transitioned perfectly to the Electric Factory stage. Sounding audible at The Factory is no small task. Case in point, The Dirtbombs opened up the night with a less than memorable set. They finished not long after 9, and the crowd started to get impatient waiting for TVOTR to take the stage. 10pm came and went and still no band. However, a few minutes after 10, the band filed out and the crowd was paradisiacally electrified as if not one minute had passed.
As they began with the title track from debut EP Young Liars, it was clear that the low-fi ambiance of TVOTR’s sound was mixed to perfection, even over a soundsystem that can swallow the mix of even teh best bands. “The Wrong Way” came next, before weaving in new songs that balanced a consummate set list. The docile crowd roared with the opening synth bass chaos of “Dancing Choose.” The contrast between the Buddha-like Kyp Malone and the wild, picturesque arm swings and pumping chest bumps from Tunde Adebimpe was an esthetical scene to watch.
The vocals of Kyp Malone, guitarist and falsetto genious, are dramatically more prominant on Dear Science, then previous LPs. While he has always contributed to the lyrics, frontman Tunde Adebimpe had performed most of the lead vocals. Malone’s rise has also made him more of the focus on stage, as he traded lead vocals with Adebimpe on this night. Malone even played bass on several songs, while bassist Gerard Smithle did his samples and MIDI keys behind him.
Producer and guitarist David Andrew Sitek’s commanding guitar playing set the mood of the show with intricate rhythms that blended perfectly with Malone’s “Golden Age” funk riffs and his slick lead on “Halfway Home.” The show also featured a live horn section which slithered beneath the mix artfully. Jaleel Bunton’s drums were tight, and he often looked to Malone to sync up when adding some impromptu drum fills.
“Golden Age” followed by “Wolf Like Me” were obvious crowd pleasers and riled the crowd into an unlikely mosh pit. In between songs Malone asked the crowd to go see Adebimpe’s movie Rachel Getting Married, which he plays alongside Anne Hathaway. Adebimpe modestly shook his head, trying to pull away the attention from his moonlighting acting gig. The band then started the calm intro for “Shout Me Out” before the feverish pace of double-time drums happily cracked open the ease of tranquility only a few bands could pull off.
After the band opened the encore with the melodic and seductive “Love Dog,” each band member put down their guitars and picked up a different type of persussion instrument to bang on, much like their set two years before. With Malone on wood block, Sitek on water-tom drum and Adeblimpe on one-handed symbol, the band went into the Return to Cookie Mountain track “A Method.” As the song winded down, Sitek pounded on his drum, lighting up the stage with a liquid fireworks display before the band went into “Staring At The Sun” concluding a brilliant evening of musical foreplay.
TV on the Radio’s musicianship and energy just completely overwhelm you in the most satisfying way possible. If you like TV on the Radio because of the well produced soundscapes of their studio recordings, or their unique swirling dirge of beautiful lyrics, you will truly fall in love with them as a live act. Add “See a TV on the Radio Show” to your bucket list now.
The Wrong Way
Wolf Like Me
Blues From Down Here
Shout Me Out
Staring at the Sun