Live Review: They Might Be Giants, Cosmo Thundercat

11 November 2015 | 4:28 pm | Ben E Webbs

"TMBG would probably argue that 'euphoria' is as valid an emotional response to art as any other."

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It's easy to underestimate the success of They Might Be Giants. Two Grammys, over 4,000,000 record sales, 17 full-length releases. 17! How do you cram that into 90 minutes? Well, you don't. The current tour is a two-hour-plus marathon, complete with an intermission and two encores. There's no way to play every single fan's favourite song when you have a catalogue that is so intimidatingly deep and diverse, but this is a band that damn well tries.

Before the main event, local alt-country-pop outfit Cosmo Thundercat continued their recent run of plum but sort of bizarrely matched support slots. Their songs have sincerity in spades, whereas as TMBG's core (Johns Flansburgh and Linnell) tend to trade more in observational comedy and geeky wordplay, delivered in their strange, nasally versions of the Massachusetts-via-Brooklyn accent.

This is, of course, exactly what the TMBG cult fans came to hear, and they loved every moment, from the opening one-two punch of Mesopotamia and Particle Man to second encore closer, Doctor Worm. In the middle were tracks like Withered Hope, Fingertips, and the brilliant Birdhouse in Your Soul. After the intermission, the Johns returned to perform Istanbul (Not Constantinople) in duo mode on accordion and guitar. The arrangement was tweaked a little from the recorded version, and met delirious applause.

TMBG's three-piece touring band then returned to the stage. The combo was incredibly tight and bouncy, performing in exactly the way these effervescent pop songs demand. The band shifted from restrained moments to sublimely silly ones, like a cover of Destiny's Child's Bills Bills Bills, effortlessly. The devoted throng at the Gov sang and smiled along to everything, but New York City and Man, It's So Loud In Here prompted particularly intense singalongs. The criticism you could lob at TMBG would be that the material, at least that which is performed live, tends not to pack much of an emotional punch. Then again, TMBG would probably argue that 'euphoria' is as valid an emotional response to art as any other.

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