TV On The Radio w/The Dirty Projectors at The Fox Oakland, 5/22/09

by Dakin Hardwick on May 23, 2009

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Not everyone finds the same thing funny...

The old story is that whenever The Velvet Underground came to town, everyone at the show started a band.  On the contrary, whenever TV On The Radio come to town, everyone gives up.  Few bands seem to set the bar as high as these gentlemen from New York.

Opening act The Dirty Projectors were definitely feeling this pressure.  They were nervous, and you could both see it and hear it.  After about 10 minutes, they found their footing.  They have a very unique sound, part experimental fusion, part dub, part punk.  Imagine Sonic Youth doing a record produced by Lee ‘Scratch” Perry, and you might come close to their sound.

TV On The Radio opened with “Love Dog,” which on record is a slow, somewhat ambient piece, but live had a bit more of a punch.  They retained the darkness of the song, but let it build in to something very fierce.  The next song, “Dreams,”  kept  building on the intensity of “Love Dog,” and by the end of the piece it felt like the room was moments away from exploding.  Then they played the punky “Blues From Down Here,” which was when the room finally detonated.

The opening trio of songs set the mood very nicely for the roller coaster of emotions that the band was about take the audience on.  Singer Tunde Adebimpe has one of the most expressive voices and stage presences in rock music.  He sings as if every song is the most important moment of his life, and if he doesn’t get it right, the world will end. The band, which has been on the road since September, has added an element of improv to the set that was very tasteful.  It never felt like a jam band, it felt like professional musicians showing their skill while retaining the basic structure of the song.  No noodling, just pure music making!

About halfway through the set, just as things were getting a little too intense, Tunde started whistling a familiar melody. It was “Regulate” by Warren G.  I think they just wanted to show that they have a sense of humor, or they just felt that it was the only emotion that had been neglected.

The set continued to run through nearly every emotion known to man. We had anger, joy, confusion, funky, silly, serious, etc.  The encore was another trio of songs that seemed to interweaveL “Family Tree,” “Stork & Owl,” and “Method,” which was all cathartic hopefulness. The last song was punctuated by members of the backstage entourage coming out to play hand percussion, and guitarist David Sitek emptying a bottle of water on to a floor tom, creating a a Blue Man Group-esque water dance.

Here’s a scan of the actual drummer’s setlist: (For those of you keeping track, they didn’t play Young Liars; I think it would have thrown off the flow.)

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