They Might Be Giants at the Ogden Theatre, 6-7-13

Hey Reverb, June 7, 2013
by Marc Hobelman

They Might Be Giants unloaded a two-hour set at the Ogden Theatre Friday night that included sing-alongs, puppet shows and topical jokes. Unsurprising to devoted fans, TMBG played a pinch from many of their albums from their 30-plus-year-career, and showcased a large chunk from their latest effort, “Nanobots.”

Consistently weird, funny and whipsmart, John Flansburgh and John Linnell produced more rock than their typical tour. Last year they stopped in Colorado while playing their fan-favorite 1990 release “Flood” in its entirety (although backwards). While beloved, that material is so specific that it feels like a completely different band when much of the odd synth/experimentally goofy sounds are left behind in favor of more guitar, bass and drums. Like many TMBG shows, this one had an audience that sang along heartily in alternating parts of the set. After 16 full-length albums — including the kid-friendly “Here Come The …” trio — the Ogden crowd was a mixed bag of fans. Almost no two audience members have the same TMBG taste, so different sections of the set were welcomed with varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Flansburgh and Linnell took their forward positions at guitar and keyboard (respectively) and launched into “When Will You Die” which bled very well into “New York City” and then overlapped significantly with “Ana Ng.” This blended burst of tracks technique happened several times throughout the night, which kept people on their toes and also allowed for the group to include plenty of the one-minute stings and blurbs with which they like to punctuate their albums. Eight songs in we got to the second most enthusiastic sing-along, “Birdhouse In Your Soul.” It would only be trumped later by a sparse guitar and accordion-only version of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” That came shortly after a brief feature from the Avatars of They (Flansburgh and Linnell as live sockpuppets projected on the back screen) doing some audience interaction bits and singing “He’s Loco.”

The show was complete with some interesting instruments (bass clarinet on “Icky”) and plenty of banter. Flansburgh made sure to let a few “we’re watching you” PRISM-themed jokes get in there. The two times the audience was split into sections for call and response songs, the competition was as high as the waving hands in the air. Two great encores ended a fantastically long and audience-satisfying set. That’s no small feat for a crowd of diverse fan groups, but the band took care of everyone flawlessly while managing to fit in a truck-load of new songs. Here’s to another 30 years and many more strange and wonderful sounds from the fantastic They Might Be Giants.