TV On The Radio are at an interesting point in their career. The band’s age is such that they are no longer actively buzzed about, yet they don’t stay far enough removed from the music scene to ever be experiencing a “comeback.” A lot of bands can become a little lazy at this point, opting to simply release likable records that don’t really push any boundaries, and serve just as an excuse to tour; TV On The Radio, however, simply have too deep of an imagination to go that direction. As 2014’s Seeds will go down as one of the finest records of their career, the set they played at Oakland’s Fox Theater (their first proper headlining show around here since its release) may go down in history as their finest performance in the Bay Area.
Opening the show was California-based performer Nostalghia. She attempted to bridge so many genres of music into a single performance that it was almost difficult to understand exactly what she wanted to be. In one single song, she could call to mind Zola Jesus, Drake, Kate Bush, Evanescence, and Icona Pop. It was a little all over the place, and at times, a bit messy. Nonetheless, she could work a stage really well, and her band was versatile enough to handle a wide array of inspirations.
TV On The Radio graced the stage with the intense, slow burn of early single “Young Liars.” I’ve watched this band play this song live nearly every time I’ve seen them, and this show marks my 10th time doing so; despite this, every time they perform the song, it always sends a chill down my spine. Tonight, the stretched it out longer than ever before, riding that slow build in a way where, when the song finally reached its apex, the intensity of the moment was almost overwhelming.
In the first 10 minutes of the show, I had already reached full-on rock n’ roll catharsis. They could have walked off stage at that moment, and I am convinced that I would have seen the best show they’ve ever done; yet, somehow, they managed to keep moving and keep the energy going.
The bulk of the show had the band in full fledged “heavy” mode; they opted to focus on the punkier, more danceable numbers. This, in fact, was great, because after the original build up, all I really wanted was to keep moving with classics like “Wolf Like Me” and “The Golden Age.” “Red Dress,” a song that was defiantly anti-Bush, was played with a sense of passion and urgency, reminding us that there is still war happening — war which needs to be stopped.
The choice to keep the show focused on the more aggressive tracks helped the more delicate numbers feel even more important. Seeds‘ beautiful psych/folk ballad, “Could You”, was rendered all the more tender when surrounded by so much intensity. The penultimate song of the evening, “Test Pilot”, took on a whole new life in the live setting, turning into a psychedelic epic poem that helped me understand why the band was selling rolling papers at the merch table.*
TV On The Radio are like no other band working today. Their live performance is one of the greatest you will ever experience, and missing the opportunity to see this band in concert is, simply put, one of the worst decisions you could ever make as a showgoer.
*(Editors’ Note: Spinning Platters does not endorse drug use to enhance your live musical experience. Nothing is better than being in the moment with music.)