Review: They Might Be Giants at Terminal 5

Death and Taxes, March 12, 2012
by Liza Eckert

After 30 years as a band, They Might Be Giants played Terminal 5 for the first time in their career on Saturday -- nearly knocking out the photographer pit in the process.

After a decently rousing set from opener Jonathon Coultron, who brought Suzanne Vega on stage to help him with a song, TMBG took the stage a little after 9:00 pm. They opened with the "Flood" track "Birdhouse in Your Soul," kicking off a set that consisted of plenty of material from their early days mixed in among a few cuts from their 2011 album "Join Us."

This was no mere boring show, where the band plays a calculated mix of hits while trying to promote their new material. No, this is a band that likes to turn a gig into a fun and goofy event. They performed a rarity in the form of "Mr. Me" and billed "Cow Town" as the first TMBG song ever recorded, plus yelled at people for throwing things from the balconies. There were a couple of interludes featuring sock puppet avatars, one of which also included a brief appearance by the Supreme Court.

Following the slightly dark performance of "Ana Ng" (which is one of my favorites) and "Careful What You Pack," they divided the audience in half, saying that the time for love was over and that for the next "between 4 and 40 minutes" the crowd would be split for "an atmosphere of total intolerance." One side of the crowd was "people" and the other was "apes," and they cheered back and forth. People won, out-fist-pumping those damn dirty apes once and for all. They managed to make one fan pretty happy, by giving a signed copy of "Join Us" to someone who was decked out in a ton of TMBG gear -- hoodie, t-shirt, the works -- proving that being "that guy" at a show can sometimes work out for the best.

Before launching into "Lie Still Little Bottle," the band announced that the bass clarinet, which was played by John Linnell, had been declared by "National Geographic" to be "rock instruments' most endangered species." After a few more tracks, including "We Live in a Dump" (introduced by a discussion of "floordrobes") and "New York City," Robin Goldwasser -- who is John Flansburgh's wife -- came out to lend her vocals to the track "Dr. Evil," which appeared in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." They followed this with "Doctor Worm," during which a microphone went flying into the photographers' pit. I had moved to the side, but apparently it landed on someone from Gothamist. It was a pretty entertaining way to close the main part of the set, provided you weren't on the receiving end of the falling equipment.

They came out and played "Celebration" and "When You Die" as encores before leaving the stage again. I was taking notes on my phone, and if you look at this point, you'll see that I wrote "No Istanbul???" Fortunately, they tricked me, and returned for a second time to play "How Can I Sing Like A Girl" and, finally, close out the night with "Istanbul," which started off with a bonus long trumpet solo.