They Might Be Giants @ House of Blues, Anaheim

LA Record, June 17, 2013
by Leslie Kalohi

The long line of mostly bespectacled folks entering Anaheim’s House of Blues was a testament to the dedicated fanbase They Might Be Giants have amassed after nearly three decades of releasing albums. Always full of whimsy and humor, just like the songs themselves, the live concert experience created by John Flansburgh and John Linnell with their full band is never one to miss, as demonstrated by yet another sold out show.

“It’s so wonderful to be so close to Disneyland!” proclaimed Flansburgh. No strangers to the venue, the band made sure to play the “contractually obligated” homage to the concert hall, “Anaheim (House of Blues),” a tune of uncharacteristic debauchery created famously for Venue Songs back in 2004.

This current tour was to celebrate and promote this year’s Nanobots, with the set including “Circular Karate Chop,” “Lost My Mind,” and the album’s title track. Brooklyn’s famed Ambassadors of Love also made sure to play plenty of their beloved classic hits. “Don’t Let’s Start,” “Anna Ng,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” and “Birdhouse in Your Soul” all made the cut and garnered the biggest response. A group of young fans near me were pogoing and singing along passionately, amusing since these songs were easily released well before they were born.

The incorporation of uncommon instruments like the melodica, accordion, and contrabass clarinet helped fully flesh out the John and John variety show, in addition to an appearance by The Avatars of They, two wise-cracking sock puppets, for “He’s Loco.”

I was introduced to the duo by the 1992 album Apollo 18, and was very pleased that both “Turn Around” and “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” made appearances on the setlist, with the latter given an extended, funky treatment.

With so much material to choose from, it should be a difficult task to give spotlight to new songs as well as acknowledge the old, but Flansburgh and Linnell do this with ease. They never fail to entertain and surprise and leave me smiling, always leaving me curious to see what they will pull off next.

The band return to LA on October 26 for two shows at UCLA’s Royce Hall, a 2pm “Kids Only” program followed by a traditional show at 8pm.