Live Shots: They Might Be Giants at the Fillmore

San Francisco Bay Guardian, November 18, 2011
by Ryan Prendiville

They Might Be Giants wrapped up a busy weekend in the Bay Area last Sunday night, playing a second night at the Fillmore on top of a free show at the SF Amoeba Music earlier that day. Starting the show, Johns Flansburgh announced that the band would be playing Flood --which he later called the band's "1990 near-breakthrough album"-- in its entirety. And, since the album was only about 43 minutes long, it would be padded first by some old and new hits.

Getting ready to play the title track from Join Us, Flansburgh debated with John Linnell whether they should call it the "new album," having also released both it and a "new, new album," the appropriately named compilation Album Raises New and Troubling Questions, in 2011.

The show would be as much about music as it would be about showcasing the oddball humor that's endeared the two Johns to fans for 25 years (some in attendance were noticeably younger than that, but most seemed to have been with the band for a good while.) Before "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" Flansburgh used a handheld spotlight to divide the audience on the floor into competing camps of chanting "apes" and "people," adding that "the one-percenters in the balcony don't get to play." (Apes won.)

Flood was performed in reverse order, building up to a crescendo that included both "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" and "Birdhouse in Your Soul," ending with the now ironic "Theme From Flood" ("It's a brand new record for 1990!") Highlights included an in the dark version of "Whistling in the Dark" by Linnell* with bass drum gong support from Flansburgh and a Flood half-time show with the sock puppet "Avatars of They" singing "Singing Spoiler" alert with Meg Ryan (not really Meg Ryan.)

*Definitely the quieter on stage of the two Johns, I was reminded elsewhere during the show that Linnell is worth keeping an eye on, if only because he makes fairly inscrutable faces the entire time. Kind of like someone is playing slightly off key and he's trying to figure out who it is, if only because he likes it.