Show Review: The Ting Tings, MNDR at The Fillmore, 3/25/12

by Dakin Hardwick on March 27, 2012

The Ting Tings

The sophomore slump is a tough thing to get over. Whenever you come out of the box with a huge album, the public is always skeptical of whatever you do next. The Ting Tings are one of those bands. They essentially took over the world with their debut record, full of amp’d up bubblegum pop with the right dose of punk energy. With such an explosive beginning, they would need to put out the audio equivalent of the Sistine Chapel in order to be respected. This tour is their moment of truth.

Oakland’s MNDR opened the show. She has been building up a slow, steady buzz of her own over the last couple years, and she brought her own crop of fans to the sold out Fillmore. Her brand of electro pop comes from the same school as Robyn, a nice balance of mechanical rhythms and warm, pop melodies. She took control of all elements of the performance, playing synthesizers, triggering loops and beats, while still handling vocals, and doing all she could to get the crowd going. The only problem with her set was caused by The Fillmore’s lighting. I don’t know if it was her decision or the venues, but the stage so dimly lit that she was nearly impossible to actually see. She was a lively shadow bouncing all over the stage, but you couldn’t make out her face from the second row. It caused her to lose any sense of personal connection she would have made with the crowd.

MNDR in the darkness

The Ting Tings opened their set with the slow burner track “Silence.” This is the same song that opens up their latest record. It was a proper opener- a song the begins slow, but comes on thick. The song slowly builds into an eruption of new wave intensity, setting the real tone for the rest of the show. They paired that with “Great DJ,” the song that opened up the band’s debut record, which is also the main reason so many people purchased tickets to this show. And that is how you open a show.

Katie White of the Ting Tings playing "Silence"

As they have been from the beginning, The Ting Tings are a duo. There are only two people on stage that do everything. Katie White handles nearly all of the vocals, guitar, and also handles an array of electronics. Jules De Martino handles drums, as well as his own arsenal of electronics. They do nearly everything live, running around the stage, triggering samples, yet still remaining focused on the actual “performance.” White has charisma and energy both in spades. She’s a fireball that does not know how to be contained.

They devoted the majority of the set to spotlighting the new record.  They explained the theory behind this album- a collection of songs that bear little sonic relation to each other. I’m not certain that they pulled that off, but it did make for a very eclectic set. One of the highlights of the set was the bluesy “Guggenheim.” Before this track, every song they played had some sort of electronic element that was canned or looped above what was being played on stage. It’s good fun, and part of the sound, but with this track they opted to keep it really simple, and it worked. It was simply drums, guitar, and vocals, and it had that sexy, dirty, blues punk groove of early Gossip or White Stripes. The also covered territory as diverse as a Beastie Boys/Northern State styled “Hit Me Down Sonny,” they pulled out the disco, they did some arena rock, and even threw out a real techno number.

The new tracks sounded great live, and it was brave of the band to spotlight these songs. As a thank you for the testing the audience’s patience, they opted to stretch out all of the hits from the first record. They disco’d up “Fruit Machine.” They turned “The Walk” into a piece of marching band funk. “Shut Up and Let Me Go?” They played a classic 12″ version, complete with bonus drum breaks that pulled the song into a special extended dance number. They closed with a sweaty version of their breakout hit “That’s Not My Name” that prompted White to jump into the crowd, only to encourage bonus pogos.

The Ting Tings more than proved that they can work past the sophomore slump, and will continue to play high energy, punky dance music for years to come.

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