This is a concert review I wrote for Randomville. I also included some videos of the band if you're interested. The first is a live version of "Golden Age" on the British show Later...With Jools Holland. The second is a live version of "Dancing Choose" on Letterman. Enjoy.
5/18/09- It’s amazing that with all the success TV On The Radio has had over the past few years that I would find them in a place like the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City on Monday night. It’s not that the venue is bad or too small but after being hailed as one of the best bands of this generation by everyone from Rolling Stone to Spin magazine, I expected to find the band in much different circumstances.
The Diamond Ballroom is on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, down the street from a Budweiser factory, and has a dirt parking lot. The inside looks like it was once used as a country-western bar where people would square dance and the stage at the north end of the venue was added as an afterthought. I was highly excited. It’s not that often that a person catches a great band in such a strange and intimate setting.
The opening band was, “Little Dragon”, and though the vocals from lead singer Yukimi Nagano immediately reminded me of Bjork, their music was much more upbeat and danceable-a perfect opening band for TV On The Radio. Their set was heavily driven by the keyboards of Hakan Wirenstrand that always seemed to add that little extra-something to the mix to make them not only fun but interesting as well. Their songs would often devolve into percussion-driven and ambient interludes that always threatened to lose the interest of the crowd before vocalist Nagano would grab their attention with an ear-catching melody. The crowd was very warm to the band, which is always nice to see.
It was close to 40 minutes before TV On The Radio took the stage after Little Dragon closed their set and by that time, the Diamond Ballroom was packed and stifling. Without any air-conditioning and only three exits that were open to the night air, it was damn hot in there. It was interesting to see that the band had no great stage setup, no smoke machines or even great lights. But none of that mattered when they opened their set with “Dirtywhirl” because the crowd immediately began to dance and move and sing along, totally forgetting their previous predicament of being hot and of the band not having a big production for them to see. I was surprised that though the crowd was somewhat small, they were completely dedicated to the band, singing along to all of the songs and clapping when prompted to do so by lead singer Tunde Adebimpe. I loved watching him dance around the stage with so much charisma and passion.
The band played a tight set, playing 10 of the 11 tracks (I don’t count “Silence” because…well, it’s nothing but silence) from Dear Science. Towards the middle of the set, they played fan favorite “Golden Age” and a rousing version of “Wolf Like Me” back-to-back and it was great to hear the crowd sing “We’re howlin’ forever!” at the end of the song. Other great live songs were “Dancing Choose” and “Red Dress” with rhythm guitar player Kyp Malone taking the lead vocals on the latter song and declaring, “I’m scared to death I’m living a life not worth dying for”. It seemed like the night could go on forever,
For the encore, they played a beautiful version of “Family Tree” which is heavily-driven by a string section on the album but was instead driven here by a delay-effect on the guitar of lead guitarist and producer Dave Sitek. The song was intimate and emotional and really calmed the crowd down after all the rabble-rousing of the evening. They closed the show by inviting members from opening band, Little Dragon, and a few other friends of the band to play, “A Method” from their album, Return To Cookie Mountain. The song features nothing but various percussion instruments and a bass and as a stage spectacle, one of the friends of the band poured a full bottle of water onto his giant drum so that water would spray in all directions as he hit it. It was a great closer.
Despite the band having a few sound problems (which I blame more on the venue than the band), the show was absolutely amazing as the songs of the band were really meant to be played live. If this band is coming your way anytime soon, do yourself a favor and go see them. If you’re lucky, you might catch them in an intimate setting like I saw them because it is only time before this band is playing stadiums.