Thursday, April 12, 2007

Concert Coverage - Volume 1: TV on the Radio

[Note: This is part one of a summer-long series in which I cover shows in words and photos. Stay tuned for upcoming pieces on Bloc Party, Fall Out Boy, K-OS, Rage Against The Machine, Wu-Tang Clan, The Roots, John Mayer, and many more.]

TV on the Radio defies genre convention. With their highly nuanced sound and busy arrangements, they touch upon everything from free jazz and doo wop to electronica and punk. For this reason, I was highly skeptical about their live show. How can five mortals recreate the clusterfuck of sound heard on their albums?

Forgive me for pre-judging.

The cramped Rion Ballroom at the University of Florida was filled to the brim with the most diverse cast of characters I’ve seen on campus, or any show in general: hip-hop heads in fitted caps and hoodies, emo kids in extra-medium t-shirts and skinny jeans, indie girls in skull-and-crossbones, and frat guys in loafers and collar-popped-polos.

With the first highly distorted guitar notes played by guitarists Kyp Malone (the afroed one) and Dave Sitek (the one with the wind chime), the crowd began a hypnotizing and rhythmic swaying that remained for much of the show, with the exception of the near-mosh-pits caused by “Wolf Like Me.”

Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe has a commanding presence that could convince his eager crowd to jump off a bridge, if need be. Which is why the band’s between-song banter was so uncanny. They seem like such an enigma on stage, that it takes Adebimpe’s declaration that “your state is really hot, you know” and other random jokes to really humanize him.

From the lush tandem harmonies of Adebimpe and Malone on “Province,” to the eerie detailed musical layers of “Dreams” and “Dirty Whirl,” the crowd thought they had seen it all during the band’s regular set, but nothing could prepare us for the encore.

After a brief hiatus, the band returned to the stage with opening act The Noisettes and with random percussion instruments in tow. The resulting performance of “A Method” was powerful, to say the very least. The minimalist interpretation found Adebimpe smacking a cymbal and Sitek releasing his anger on a floor tom, with the crowd eagerly clapping along in unison as bassist Gerard Smith pounded away at the Moog organ.

The show concluded with a rousing rendition of “Let The Devil In” delivered through a megaphone, and their first moderately successful single, “Staring At The Sun.” After one and a half hours, I was left convinced that TV on the Radio was, indeed, capable of living up to their studio sound. But there’s no way in hell they’re mortal.