After nearly five years since going to our last gig I could barely resists buying tickets to see They Might Be Giants at Riverside Newcastle. It was a rare opportunity to see the band in the UK, but also even rarer that they were heading to our home turf.
They Might Be Giants and Al!
Before I head into the gig I thought I’d share a little more backstory to this gig. After all what was it that made this gig, the gig to break a 5 year gap in live concerts?
Around 1998 I was going through a musically inspire creative period. I went daft buying musical instruments, electronic devices and setting up a home recording studio. This also coincided with buying Severe Tire Damage, a mostly Live album of They Might Be Giants. After a few listen’s through certain songs started to ring bells with me like “Birdhouse in your Soul”. After a little more research online, I found that their back catalogue was huge and I rapidly built up my new CD collection. Their music was innovative, humorous and full of energy.
For the best part of a summer I developed a knack for breaking down their music and sequencing it into Midi files. For which I became a regular contributor to a website called They Might Be Midi (sadly it’s no longer online). My obsession nearly resulted in a They Might Be Giants cover band (probably to be called “They Could Be Giants”).
In 1999 Napster was publicising music download, like a billion dollar billboard. Although the reason they were all over the television wasn’t for the right reasons. The concept of downloading a music file to listen to on your computer or burn to a CD was crazy, but popular. TMBG managed to get on the fore front of this on the legal download side, quite early on. Instead of the now common pay per track option, they released their music through a site called eMusic.com available for a monthly subscription. In 2000 They Might Be Giants became the most downloaded band on the eMusic service.
When 2001 came, TMBG released a month download subscription concept through eMusic. The service was called TMBG Unlimited, every month a set of tracks would be released, varying in new releases, to Demo tracks and Live version. Along with the tracks came a signed CD and a TMBG Unlimited fleece. I wore it with pride.
They Might Be Giants at Riverside Newcastle
Hopefully you can see why this gig was a must event for a Thursday night in January.
Doors opened at 7:30pm, by the time we’d finished our meal at Babucho it was around 8:10 pm. We walk straight over to the bar lurking around the back of the crowd. Then I realised that band’s following was the most civilised grouping I’d seen at a gig. The room had about 400 – 500 people in it, despite arriving later there were still pockets of space and we easily negotiated a better vantage point. From that position we spotted another gap further forward, until we were touching the left hand side of the stage. I mean, this is how close we were.
Since when did they get rid of the crowd barriers at gigs? I was so close I could read the labels on the stage weights! Hmm TMBG, 12.5 KG…. No idea what GLS means!
The venue was relatively small, but had a great atmosphere which gave a nice intimate feeling. Even better when your standing at the front. Saying that, even if you were further back you’d have been in a good spot. The band came on playing ‘Walk on Water’. The guitars, keyboard and drums vibrated through my body. I was standing right in front of a stack of speakers!
As soon as they’d finished someone in the crowd yelled out “Malcolm in the Middle”! John Flansburgh retaliated with “Thats off the list! Here’s our rules, If you yell out a track we won’t play it. A band needs its rules. With over 300 tracks to choose from at a moments notice we have plenty of options.” The humour was felt with it’s intention and not taken as a stroppy artist. After the next track John Flansburgh went on to break some rules. After discussing the etiquette of gig photographers. There is an unspoken rule that after 3 songs the photographers must leave (or at least stop photographing). Instead they encouraged more photos to be taken. In fact they invited the photographers to join them on the back of the stage to take photos of behind the band looking into the crowd. It was refreshing to see a band be so down to earth and approachable.
I won’t go into the full set list, but it is available here on setlist.fm
All the tracks that they played seemed familiar, I couldn’t help but sing. Even the one’s I’d never heard before. A new favourite track for me is ‘Damn Good Times’, which will probably always remind me of this gig.
The gig ended with an encore of Particle Man & Robot Parade (Child into Adult Version), followed by a 2nd encore of James K. Polke & Twisting.
Then a 3rd Encore of Istanbul (Not Constantinople).
Dan Miller lead guitarist totally owns this song. Every time that I’ve seen this track live, he starts off slowly on his electro-acoustic guitar, picking and strumming for several minutes, before building up the pace into ridiculous blur over the soundhole. The Track ended with John Flansburgh unmounting the strings from his guitar, which I saw as a sign of there will be no more encores.
I have to say both Cat and I had an amazing night at the Riverside. It will definitely be a venue to go back to. Tickets were only £20 each and it was easy to book. For more gig info visit www.riversidenewcastle.co.uk. At a young 37, I felt more than my age and my bed time was approaching. Looking around most of the crowd were my age or older. For once I didn’t feel like the oldest person in the night club! Which actually reminds me about the time I went to a night club for a friends 40th birthday…