TV on the Radio
Fillmore Miami Beach
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Better Than: Being blinded by Nine Types of Light.
On the one hand, this past year's been a really tough one for arty Brooklyn indie band TV on the Radio.
In June, the quintet became a quartet when bassist Gerard Smith died at 36 years old after a battle with lung cancer. And even though Smith wasn't part of TVOTR's touring lineup at the time of his death, he had been a significant contributor to the band's last three albums -- Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science, and Nine Types of Light -- and his sad, premature passing caused a string of concerts to be canceled, turning several months on the road into a yearlong odyssey shaded with sadness.
On the other hand, though, 2011's been packed with plenty of joy and triumph too. The band's most recent record, Nine Types of Light, was released back in February to generally giddy acclaim from both fans and the music nerd establishment, rising to the 12th spot on American charts and scoring top grades from critics at the A.V. Club, Village Voice, Rolling Stone, NME, and Pitchfork.
Now nearing the end of a forever unspooling US tour schedule, last night's show at the Fillmore Miami Beach was another flicker and flash in TVOTR's long, complicated, and potentially great 2011.
The evening began with a set of melodramatic post-rock from opening band Sorne. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the trio toyed with modern tribalism, pseudo-classical pop, and theatrical art-rock, using only a drum kit, human voice, and a mess of electronics.
The most interesting (though not necessarily good) part of Sorne's set was its singer and namesake, Morgan Sorne, whose vocal schizophrenia had him playing six or seven different parts in a one-man drama. From one minute to the next, he sounded like Michael Jackson at his angriest, Freddy Mercury at his airiest, or Antony of the Johnsons with a clear throat.
Overall, it was pretty and polished. But it also felt like the right time to go get another beer.
An hour later, however, it was finally time to shove our way to the foot of the stage. The room went black. A dark backdrop flecked with stars fell from the rafters, unfolding from ceiling to floor. And a couple of thousand other fans followed behind us, half-drunkenly pushing their way toward the stage as the guys of TV on the Radio -- endlessly smiling Tunde Adebimpe, bubble-bearded Kyp Malone, bespectacled Dave Sitek, and dread-headed Jaleel Bunton -- emerged.
Taking their places and snatching up mike, guitars, and drums, Adebimpe, Malone, Sitek, and Bunton set out on a fast, tight spiral through an intial blast of tracks ("Halfway Home," "The Wrong Way," "Caffeinated Consciousness," and "Second Song") skipping from 2009's stellar Dear Science, back to 2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and then forward to this year's Nine Types of Light.
Now despite Crossfade's hyped-up, pre-show babble about the danger of being blinded and deafened by the sheer force of TV on the Radio's sensory assault, last night's performance was a pretty mellow affair. Our recommended UV-shield sunglasses and silicone earplugs proved totally unnecessary.
We only really needed a little medical-grade marijuana for basking and vibing. Our naked corneas were perfectly capable of dealing with the hazy, shifting red, purple, and aqueous green stage lights and our unprotected cochleas were tough enough to withstand the gentle volume of "Golden Age," "Red Dress," and "Repetition."
But while we didn't have our eyes, ears, or minds blown by TVOTR, there were a few frenzied moments that punctuated the performance, causing fans to momentarily shriek, flail enthusiastically, and generally freak out. They shook ass like they were having a seizure for "Dancing Choose." They swooned for "Young Liars." And they turned red-eyed, blood-hungry for the show closer, a fiendish, sprinting take of that sing-along ode to lycanthropes, "Wolf Like Me."
That was the end. Of course, though, the true TV on the Radio devotees weren't satisfied. So they held dancing Zippo flames, lit-up cell phones, to the sky, shouted and howled until TV on the Radio slipped back onto the stage, snatched up their gear again, and gave them ten extra minutes -- "Forgotten" and "Satellite" --of flicker and flash.
The Crowd: Comfortably cool people of all kinds, from ancient hippies to middle-aged indie slobs, young hot hipsters, and even this one pregnant woman in a Sonic Youth maternity tee.
TV on the Radio's Setlist
-"The Wrong Way"
-"Staring at the Sun"
-"Wolf Like Me"