Concert review: They Might Be Giants keep a Granada crowd moving and laughing

The Dallas Morning News, May 14, 2015
by Darryl Smyers

They Might Be Giants made the Granada Theater their own private island on Wednesday, performing two stuffed sets of nerdy alt-rock in front of a packed throng of geeks and grandfathers.

Fronted by the commanding and comical duo of John Linnell and John Flansburgh (and augmented with a killer rhythm section), TMBG plowed through more than 30 songs that spanned the band's three decade career.

Beginning with "Can't Keep Johnny Down" from 2011's Join Us, TMBG alternated between classics like "The Mesopotamians" and "Istanbul" with quality newer fare such as "Good to Be Alive" and "Underwater Woman." Indeed, the new material stood out as the band seemed particularly engaged by playing songs they hadn't performed countless times before.

Even better was the between-song banter as Linnell and Flansburgh delighted the faithful with wry observations on Dallas and on the venue itself.

"What are all these odd paintings on the wall?" Flansburgh asked about the the Granada's eclectic artwork. Linnell was more concerned about the fate of Big Tex, the icon of the State Fair whose last iteration perished in a fire back in 2012. "That reminded me of the film The Wicker Man," said Linnell. "Who has seen that movie?"

TMBG's is music made for the mind that just happens to move the body as well. It's quirky and ambiguous, but it connects with a diverse audience happy to play along with inside jokes and vague pop culture references. It's as if even Linnell and Flansburgh are surprised that so many people get the joke or, at least, want to play along.

"We've had a few days off," Flansburgh said early on. Indeed, TMBG seemed to have extra energy. Fan favorites such as "Doctor Worm" and "Older" were spot on.

Yet the best moment of the evening may have been the band's clever take on Destiny Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills." Turning the song inside out, the guys parodied but never plundered the song's inherent catchiness.

Coming across like some unholy hybrid of Frank Zappa, Yo La Tengo and, believe it or not, Benny Goodman, They Might Be Giants have created a genre all their own. Blurring the lines between styles is one thing; blasting away between doo-wop and hip-hop is quite another.

Whether it was a song from 30 years ago or one from the new album, Glean, TMBG delivered the precious nirvana of music made for passion over profit.