They Might (Still) Be Giants

Pageant Theater, St. Louis

15 March 2013

William Gillespie

I wish I had more to say.

I attended with a few old fans and one new-comer—my father-in-law—an alt-country fan not of the They Might Be Giants demographic. Watching the show through his eyes, it was clear TMBG gears their shows to their fan base. Despite an enormous catalog of great songs, they played a lot of the same material, even the same encore I heard in Chicago four years ago. The diehards were mouthing all the words to "Ana Ng," of course, but I felt bad for my father-in-law because the song selection seemed too easy, the light show was migraine-inducing, and a lot of the subtleties of the better songs were drowned out in guitar-wash. I can't totally blame them for using easy tricks like strobes, aggressive electric guitar, and playing easy favorites—I don't know what it's like to tour for 25 years!—but it would be interesting to see them play a set to introduce their talents to newcomers, or play more deep tracks. Something for beginners or for experts, not the middle-of-the-road song selection that fails to inspire any "Hell yeah, that song!" moments in me.

Maybe that's why I liked their concert for kids better than any I've seen them give to grown-ups—it was a tough crowd. If they didn't like the show, they cried! Audience members were throwing up, throwing things, yelling, and being led out of the balcony in tears. And They Might Be Giants were happier and more relaxed than I'd ever seen them.

For me, John Henry was their last great record (well, I also like Venue Songs) (and State Songs) (but do those two count?) (and I'm overlooking the three recent children's albums), but I can't write the bandoff even if their major releases have settled into a homogenous almost-rock sound I don't understand very well. I'm convinced there are great songs still in them. GREAT songs. Our toddler's nearly-narcotic relationship to the Mickey Mouse Club "Hot Diggedy Dog" song offers uneasy proof of their continued power to write.


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