Certain commentators out there seemed somewhat puzzled that ‘alt-rockers’ They Might Be Giants were included as part of this year’s Festival line-up but, regardless, they delighted the fans, tore the Palais apart and just about ripped the thing from its moorings. John Flansburgh (the one always in glasses and usually on guitar) and Linnell (the one sometimes in glasses and on keyboards, accordion, oboe and more) like to call TMBG a ‘project’ rather than a ‘band’, ‘group’ or even ‘outfit’, but no matter, as whatever they might be these days they’re still damn awesome.
Fittingly opening with Damn Good Times, as the sun set but the evening remained steamy, Flansburgh then joked with the audience about coming in closer and engaging in some “social anxiety” before launching into one of their most loved older songs, Ana Ng, and their charmingly poppy cover of New York City.
Explaining that the show was going to consist of all the songs you’d expect and a few ‘out-of-the-bag’ ditties, they were also obviously having a fine time, and when they did the fast version of Why Does The Sun Shine? Linnell kept lengthily drawing out the spoken word bits in a voice like a stoned Cookie Monster. They also got a little amusingly crude about the Palais backdrop (supposedly they asked to have the back wall torn out, and their wish was granted) and added some banter about that infamous Rolling Stones documentary with the title that can’t really be mentioned here (look it up!).
Experimental Film followed, along with a raucous The Famous Polka (another obscure offering) without the lyrics and surprisingly turning into Your Racist Friend, and the adored Birdhouse In Your Soul. By this point there was no stopping the Johns and their cool four-man backing gang, and the tunes just kept coming: the lesser-known Hide Away Folk Family; the bizarre Whistling In The Dark; the almost-proper-hit Don’t Let’s Start; Spy (with the longest sustained note in human history from trumpeter Mark Pender); the grimly funny Older; Fingertips (which usually concludes their shows); and, of course, their rendition of the tongue-twisting sing-along Istanbul (Not Constantinople).
Obviously the advertised interval wasn’t coming, and instead they opted for a few encores, with the expected attack on the US President (without actually naming him) happening in between newer songs (The Communists Have The Music) and standards like The Guitar (complete with more silly voices) and a thundering Doctor Worm.
It’s worth noting (sorry guys!) that both JF and JL are pushing 60 these days and that, sadly, the 1990s were an awfully long time ago – but who the hell cares? It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: They Really Are Giants.