They Might Be Giants @ Metro Theatre

The Music, February 23, 2019
by Mick Radojkovic

With 33 years of music, 22 albums and over 400 songs released, They Might Be Giants (TMBG) have been as prolific as they’ve been quirky. The songwriting skills of John Flansburgh and John Linnell appeal to the child (and progressive) inside, but also on the outside, with a handful of children’s albums also released to their name.

On this tour, they’ve decided to split the shows, switching between playing the 1980s and 2010s releases or, like tonight, pitting their ‘90s songs against the “aughts” tracks, as they call them.

With no supports and two sets, the night was promising to be a long one and the crowd rammed into the Metro, with Flansburgh admitting, “It's like you're getting more but we're just taking a break in the middle!” After first track, Damn Good Times, the chatty duo wasted no time in getting political, and as we would learn over the show, they are certainly not afraid to take the piss out of themselves either, joking that reviews will say the show took a “horrible turn" after three minutes. It did not.

Many TMBG songs are short, like really short, and this was highlighted by their rendition of the 21-part track Fingertips from their 1992 album, Apollo 18. It’s a mish-mash of melodic songs, that sound a lot like commercial jingles but are much funnier. A significant portion of the crowd knew every word, such is the love here for the group.

Flood, their 1990 album, got the most love with the (unfortunately) very relevant Your Racist Friend and the still-excellent, Birdhouse In Your Soul. Mark "Loveman" Pender's trumpet was a huge highlight, especially when coming to the front of the stage and hitting notes that would have had dogs howling. The intro to Istanbul (Not Constantinople) was simply outstanding trumpet-work from the star that once sessioned with David Bowie. The two Johns delighted in stepping back throughout the evening and letting the uber-talented band get the accolades. Marty Beller on drums and percussion also stood out, especially at the start of the second act.

Crowd participation was used well, particularly in Drink!, where people were utilised as human theremins and became part of a very cleverly conducted part of the evening where Linnell and Flansburgh took turns at pointing to the band and audience to create sounds.

The second act and encores rolled out classics like How Can I Sing Like A Girl?, Man, It’s So Loud In Here, Whistling In The Dark, and crowd favourite, Dr Worm (which triple j loved in 1998, hitting #13 in the Hottest 100). All the while, the group are flawless; whether Linnell is smashing the keys or stretching the accordion, or Flansburgh is singing or on guitar, they click together seamlessly.

New song The Communists Have The Music would be the only track not to fit the brief, and after a cheeky improvisational section pointing out beards and friends dragged along in the crowd, they played The End Of The Tour and completed almost three hours (with a break) of music. The Herculean effort was a reward for an Australian crowd that has always been supportive of the quirky little band from Brooklyn.