Written By | Hannah Robinson
They Might Be Giants, the alternative rock band hailing from New York, put on quite the show for a massive crowd at 170 Russell on Friday night. After 36 years together, the band are still going strong, attracting a huge crowd that spanned a very wide range of generations. To ensure they weren’t too heavy on the newer material the group split their two Melbourne and two Sydney gigs based on the four decades of their music. Each city got two shows, the first night we were treated to the 80’s vs the 10’s and the second night heard the hits from the 90’s and 00’s. Although this meant fans missed hearing some of the 90’s/00’s favourites, this seemed to sit fairly well with most of the multi-generational audience.
As soon as the venue doors opened I braced for the stampede, but all I saw were patient people calmly walking into a room like normal functioning humans. I was very impressed with everyone as they chose their spot and seemed to really respect each other’s personal space, starting to chat with their neighbours about what songs they’re most excited to hear. Not even the 39°C (102.2°F) day could keep this lovely crowd away, it just sent them straight to the bar before finding where they wanted to stand for the night.
John Flansburgh, John Linnell, Dan Miller, Marty Beller and Danny Weinkauf were warmly welcomed to stage with applause and cheering as the crowd couldn’t contain their excitement any longer. Beginning the night with the first track on their most recent album My Murdered Remains, the band burst straight into “The Communists Have the Music” which was very well received by the room. Fans got to witness the wonderful talents of the group, with Linnell on vocals and keys which he traded for an accordion and a saxophone multiple times throughout the night, Flansburgh on vocals and guitar, Miller on guitar and backing vocals, and Beller on drums and later on some synth pads. As if the musicianship of the group wasn’t already blowing away fans, they also welcomed onstage master trumpet player, Mark Pender, with lungs strong enough to take the breath away from everyone in the room.
Linnell and Flansburgh have certainly mastered the art of stage banter and had the room roaring with laughter consistently throughout the night. With fun bickering between the two, talk of internet hoaxes, scarily perfect targeted ads and the use of the most perfectly timed comedic pauses, the crowd seemed to be treated to a half time stand up comedy show. This certainly made fans fall more in love with the band and the night shared with them.
After enthusiastically playing their way through two sets of hits such as 2015s “Music Jail, Parts 1 & 2”, the Four Lads cover of “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, the title track of their twentieth album “I Like Fun” and a closer of 89’s “Hey Mr. DJ, I thought You Said We Had A Deal”, the band waved goodbye and left the stage. This of course was met with non-stop applause and chants for an encore, and the band were happy to oblige. They returned to play “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” and “Birdhouse In Your Soul” before once again leaving the stage. To say the crowd couldn’t get enough would be a complete understatement as another roar went up until the band returned yet again to close the night (for real this time) with “Number Three” and “Doctor Worm”.
They Might Be Giants played 170 Russell generously, thankfully and with great heart and passion. Whether these fans had been around for one year or thirty-five years, every one of them in the room experienced a wonderful night of fun, with an admirable display of a true respect and love between artists and the people who support them. I am certainly convinced this crowd would have stayed to listen all night if they could have, and something tells me the gentlemen on stage wouldn’t have minded that either.