On the eve of the worldwide release (except the US -- do we even have a release date yet?) of their highly anticipated second full length album, TV on the Radio played one of their biggest shows to date on their home soil -- and brought the house down. Two of my friends who live in the Slope (and who aren't necesssarily the most music savvy) were shocked at how packed the park was, despite my attempts at explaing who TVOTR are and their impact on the Brooklyn music scene.
Seeing Williamsburg's first sons play a show in their own backyard was truly a treat for me. I'd never seen them live and was looking forward to this gig all week. I've heard that their live set doesn't always deliver and this show definitely proved that wrong. But the show almost didn't happen.
Just after Voxtrot wrapped up and Matt Pond started setting up, the up-to-that-point clear sky started to fill with dark, swirling clouds. Midset, Matt Pond asked the crowd if we were scared and followed up with, "well, you should be. Look over your heads. Don't you see those clouds?" But he played on. And the winds kept swirling and the rain threatened ... but never came. While I couldn't hear Matt Pond's set that well from our blanket setup toward the back of the park, what I could hear was great.
More TVOTR after the jump...
Fearing the impending storm, many people packed up and left
(suckers!). We held out, stood our ground and remained true to the goal
of the night: seeing TVOTR. And when the band finally came out a short
while later, the ground remained dry and we were all bopping along to
their widely energetic set, which consisted of mostly older songs, but
did include a few new tunes with lead singer Tunde Adembimpe kicking up
the dirt and truly owning that stage.
The first track off Return to Cookie Moutain, "I Was a Lover," showed up about midset and got the crowd up front jumping out of their seats (if anyone was still sitting at that point, I doubt it), with its slightly uncharacteristic up-tempo danceable funk. The set also included "Dreams," "The Wrong Way," "New Health Rock" and "Wolf Like Me," which was so hot I almost wanted to dance like Molly Ringwald in "The Breakfast Club" in the scene when they all get ridiculously high and rock out in the library. But I digress.
A great surprise would've been Bowie joining the band for "Province," which he does on the new album. Alas, it was just TVOTR. But, a real treat was the inclusion of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, which was on stage backing TVOTR for much of the show playing a variety of bass and percussion. Apparently, Tunde was so grateful that Antiblas joined his band that he hit the stage for their show a few days later in Central Park.
Last week, I interviewed Kele Okereke of Bloc Party. When we talked about their new album, one thing he said was that he wanted to make guitar rock less skinny and white. That statement reverberated loudly during TVOTR's entire set in Prospect Park. While the crowd was largely skinny and white (gotta love hipsters!), TVOTR's core comprises one skinny white dude and four disparately shaped black guys. While I wouldn't necessarily lump TVOTR into the guitar-rock genre -- since they are decidely more experimental and multi-instrumental -- it was a great thing to see a rock group composed mostly of non-white guys in this continued era of white-male-dominated rock.
Another surprise for me was seeing how animated guitarist and co-vocalist Kyp Malone was on stage, not to mention seeing his oh-so-large afro up close as he casually wandered through the crowd after Voxtrot's set. I was in Williamsburg last year and met Kyp, who was sitting next to me at a coffeeshop on Bedford Ave. When he spoke, he was nearly inaudible because of his mild manner and soft tones. So to see him bounce around on stage while playing guitar and singing was great.
I'd have to say the only real disappointment was the band not performing "Staring at the Sun." Not sure why it was excluded from the set, but most of the people around me couldn't understand why. Has this become their "Creep"? Will they stop playing it at shows? I hope to god the answer is no.
Overall the night was amazing, even with the potential rain. Fortunately the night stayed dry and the music was hot. My virgin experience with TVOTR was fantastic and I look forward to seeing them again -- hopefully next time somewhere more intimate.
Thanks to Brooklyn Vegan for letting me use his images from the show.
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