CONCERT REVIEW Fresh sound, stale performance

Wildly artistic TV on the Radio gives a more easygoing concert

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TV on the Radio performed at Boston’s House of Blues over the Patriots’ Day weekend.
courtesy of Michael lavine

TV on the Radio

House of Blues

April 16, 2011

This is TV on the Radio, one of a kind: wind chimes attached to the guitar. Whistling and clapping. And a rotating siren light.

This is the band that released their first album, OK Calculator (alluding to Radiohead’s OK Computer — check out the song “Robots”), by leaving copies of their homemade records in public places. All of the five main collaborators are multi-instrumentalists. The instruments range from the expected guitar, bass, and keyboards, to flute, synthesizer, organs, saxophone, and horns. Sometimes they do a cappella, sometimes improvisation. The band is often joined by dozens of other musicians from different genres. TV on the Radio is not merely a musical group: They are the offspring of a creative culture.

Lissy Trullie, an indie pop musician currently living in New York City, opened the show. Her voice and music were lovely, but ultimately she was little more than eye candy — nothing particularly spectacular. By the time the actual concert started, the audience was getting impatient. Fortunately the House of Blues’ venue was quite artistically pleasing, allowing insubstantial contemplation and discussions to fulfill the over-an-hour wait between the opening band and the show.

TVOTR’s compact set list lasted a bit over an hour. They had a minibreak. No encore. The little nuisances here and there were tolerable, but difficult to brush aside.

The set list was mostly comprised of songs from their latest album, Nine Types of Lights (2011), released seven days before the concert. While the newness of the music did not prevent the audience from enjoying the music, it did not respond to our need to hear familiar tracks from Dear Science (2008) or their EPs. Among the memorable songs were “Young Liars,” “Wolf Like Me,” “Red Dress,” “Crying,” “Staring at the Sun,” and “Satellite.”

Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s sickness did not hinder his performance at all, but it did mellow down the tone of the evening. They were getting old — at least that was what fellow band member Kyp Malone said. I looked around; we were all getting old. To my surprise, most of the audience were my parents’ age or older. I moved closer to the stage and discovered that the crowd was a gradient of age, inversely proportional to enthusiasm. The concert became more satisfying: I was no longer the only one in my proximity who danced and screamed. Occasionally the college students in front of me formed a rather pathetic mosh pit. It was not really their fault; TV on the Radio mosh should not kill or injure, should it come into existence at all. There was no sign of extreme intensity anywhere. I shifted my focus from my surroundings to the band and sunk myself into the connection between the music and me for the rest of the night.

In terms of live performance, TV on the Radio is quite underwhelming. But the show was pretty decent, and their music is still fantastic. Though the fun I had that evening could easily be achieved with lights off and good speakers, it was worth it getting to feel them, to know them better — just like spending some extra time with an affable friend. After all, TV on the Radio should never be defined solely through either studio music or live performance. They produce great sound, sight, personality, innovation, universality, and art. Definitely check them out if you have not already.