by Dan Williams
They Might Be Giants rolled into Philly Sunday night and slayed a sold out crowd at the TLA. The house was packed with folks of all ages, the majority Millennials who remember them fondly from their childhood.
One audience member remembered “Istanbul” being played in a Simpsons episode. Another mentioned “Particle Man” played in Tiny Toons. Most remember “The Boss Of Me” as the theme for Malcolm in the Middle.
The show began with a solo classical guitar intro played by guitarist Dan Miller. No introduction. Just Miller walking on stage, pausing to tune his guitar, then strolling to center stage with a harsh backlight launching into a plaintive instrumental version of “Istanbul”. After a few minutes, the rest of the band wandered out, took their positions and cranked it up to a full version of the hit Four Lads cover.
This was the beginning of a marathon forty song “double set,” as described by co-founder and lead singer John Flansburgh. In full disclosure, some songs are less than a minute long, while most are two to three. The crowd knew most and happily sang along.
John Linnell, the second member of the founding duo, manned keyboards and even picked up a clarinet, which was gleefully mocked by Flansburgh. That joke continued with bassist Danny Weinkauf who one-upped Linnell with a bass clarinet.
Rounding out the band and keeping the evening tied together was fine drummer Marty Beller. The logo on his drum head was simply “They.” You can fill in the rest.
While all the songs were light and witty, Farnsburgh is the show. He is a lovable nerd in a seersucker jacket and plays it up with an endless dose of self deprecation.
All evening he played off the fact that they’ve been together for thirty years and how he can no longer remember which album contains which songs. The audience sure did with their wild applause as each tune or album was mentioned.
The set began with eighteen songs and then an “encore” of seventeen more. But wait, there was a second encore of “I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar” and “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” If that wasn’t enough, there was yet another encore that contained “Number Three,” “Dead” and “Fingertips.”
That was finally it.
To this crowd, these guys absolutely ARE giants.