Live Review: They Might Be Giants @ the Boulder Theater

Boulder Reverb, November 4, 2011
by Candace Horgan

I almost skipped the They Might Be Giants show at the Boulder Theater on Thursday night. It had been a long week, and I was tired, but I dragged my butt up there to catch the band, especially since I knew they were playing their seminal album Flood in its entirety on this tour.

It was a wise decision.

They Might Be Giants may just be the perfect antidote for whatever ails you. The tunes grab you, despite the goofy lyrics and almost falsetto voices. How could you not just grin when you hear them sing, "How can I sing like a girl, and not be objectified, as if I were a girl?"

The band has a great stage presence. It's hard to think of another band that projects a sense of that much enjoyment from playing as They Might Be Giants, especially as they came up around the time of the mega-popular, dour Seattle grunge bands. They joked about that frequently, as guitarist John Flansburgh referred to the band as "ossified," and said he was happy the crowd was there to "bathe deep in the nostalgia that is '90s alternative rock," and said they were a little intimated to be in Boulder, "surrounded by people with high SAT scores."

Before delving into the magic of Flood, the band played a half hour of mostly songs from its latest CD Join Us, including "Celebration," the infectious, pop-punk "Can't Keep Johnny Down" and "Cloisonné." They also sprinkled in a few old favorites, such as "The Mesopotamians" and "Alphabet of Nations." At one point, Flansburgh divided the audience in half using a very bright flashlight and had one side chant "People" to the rhythms of guitarist Dan Miller, drummer Marty Beller, and bassist Danny Weinkauf, while the other half chanted "Apes" to the rhythms of Flansburgh and John Linnell. Phish may have been inspired by such antics to come up with their "Big Ball Jam."

When it was time for Flood, they once again showed their irreverent sense of humor by playing the album in backward order. They also spiced up a few of the songs in comparison to the recorded versions. "Particle Man" featured a frenetic beat and accordion solo from Linnell, while "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" started with a long, flavorful acoustic guitar solo from Miller and ended with flashy powerful electric guitar from Flansburgh.

To highlight the album experience, after "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair," there was a puppet interlude from The Avatars of They (Linnell and Flasnburgh), with a small video camera being used for a live video projection on the bedsheet video screen behind the band while they sang "Spoiler Alert." Sandwiched around the puppets were jams on Ozzy Ozbourne's "Crazy Train" and Edgar Winter Group's "Free Ride."

The band returned for two extended encores after finishing Flood, including the aforementioned "How Can I Sing Like a Girl" and "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?"