By: Kent Brown

They Might Be Giants

I remember vividly my first rock n’ roll concert in the winter of 1994.  I was living outside of Atlanta, GA. and They Might Be Giants were coming to town, touring and promoting their newly released album, John Henry.  It would be an understatement to say that, at the time, I was blown away.  I had never seen a band that could generate so much energy, both onstage and from the audience, play so many instruments – and play them well – in a small venue called the Variety Playhouse.  This particular show will always hold a special place for me, being that it was my first real live rock show.  Now fast forward to the fall of 2007.  From 1994 to 2007 I have personally seen hundreds of bands perform live including The Ramones, Phish, The Who, and countless other Rock legends and current favorites.  On November 10th of 2007, I once again witnessed They Might Be Giants perform live at the historic Vic Theatre on Chicago’s north side – and once again – I was blown away.

They Might Be Giants may not be a band that first comes to mind for those seeking an intense, energetic rock n’ roll concert.  A good friend of mine summed it up pretty well when he told me that many people consider the band to be somewhat “gimmicky” just by listening to some of their studio work – of course, that’s before you see the band live.  I always love taking friends to see They Might Be Giants that don’t know much more than their hits from Flood (such as “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, “Particle Man”, or “Birdhouse in Your Soul”).  The people that I have brought to see TMBG perform live through the years always come away with a whole new perception of the band.  What most people don’t know about They Might Be Giants is that they made a name for themselves by performing unique live shows in the early 1980’s – and by ingeniously marketing themselves through ventures such as Dial-A-Song

They Might Be Giants

TMBG first began performing live in New York City in 1983 and quickly became cult favorites among the ever-growing performance art scene in the Village at that time.  They Might Be Giants are often credited as being the one of the pioneer bands of alternative music, and set the stage for an entire movement in rock n’ roll that would soon do away with hair bands and introduce alternative into the popular medium.  TMBG was alternative before there was alternative.  Their first album, They Might Be Giants, was released in 1986, and over twenty years later, the band is still producing new albums and touring the country.  In 2002, the band won a Grammy award for “Boss of Me”, the theme song for the hit show “Malcolm in the Middle”, and has performed on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, among others. They recorded the song Dr. Evilfor the film Austin Powers: The Spy who Shagged Me, and have written and recorded music for “The Daily Show with John Stewart”, “The Simpsons”, and “The Oblongs”, among many others.  They Might Be Giants have achieved a level of success over twenty years that few bands in the history of Rock N’ Roll can rival. 

As I mentioned before, the concert on November 10th at the Vic certainly did not disappoint.  It has been very interesting for me, as a fan, to witness the evolution of the band from my first live experience with them in 1994 to the present in 2007, (with about ten other TMBG shows crammed in between).  Age apparently has not deterred They Might Be Giants, for the energy present at the Vic that night was contagious.  I contend that if one cannot have a good time at a They Might Be Giants show – one cannot have a good time at all.  They are currently touring and promoting their new album, The Else, which offers many great tracks like “I’m Impressed”, “Bee of the Bird of the Moth”, and “The Mesopotamians”.  The band played quite a few songs from their new album, as expected, but was still able to mix in some older, popular favorites – as well as some lesser known cult favorites like “Fingertips” from Apollo 18.  I was somewhat surprised that only one song from the album Lincoln was played, (that song being “Mr. Me”), seeing as how Chicago is located in the “Land of Lincoln”, but so much for my personal irony…They rocked the normally rock-able songs like “She’s an Angel”, “Spy”, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, “She’s Actual Size”, and “Birdhouse in your Soul” and treated us with “The Alphabet of Nations”, “Dirt Bike”, and an encore duet with the John’s of “Maybe I Know”, (which was fantastic).  Along with band members Dan Miller (guitar), Marty Beller (drums), and Dan Wienkauf (bass), John Linnell and John Flansburgh have also added a sax player, a trombone, and a trumpet player to create an enormously full and vibrant sound for their current tour.

There is no doubt in this journalists’ mind that They Might Be Giants is a band more than worthy of a Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction in the coming years.  I would encourage anyone who enjoys live performance to catch TMBG while you can.  A They Might Be Giants concert is certainly one that you won’t forget; and that’s about all that I can remember.


Thirsty : February 2008 : Interview with John Linnell of They Might Be Giants





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