What's great about a TV on the Radio show? Well, there's the fact, for better and occasionally for worse (mostly when the sound personnel aren't up to the job), that the songs are never quite carbon copies of their on-record counterparts, and sometimes there's a wonderful moment of delayed recognition where you can't identify a song that's just started. There's the band's musicianship, from Jaleel Bunton's effortless timekeeping to Tunde Adebimpe's effortless rubber-ducky croon. There's the apparent fact that nothing from the catalog is off-limits, meaning they're liable to play "Young Liars" (which, as is par for the band's oldest songs, gets most aggressively reworked), make a clapalong jam of "A Method," and hit a few surprise points in between. There's the simple exhilaration of watching a phenomenally good band do its thing and break an honest sweat doing it.
Opening was Los Angeles's IO ECHO, whose bio on the Independent website reads, in full:
IO ECHO'S SONGS ARE PRODUCED BY LEOPOLD ROSS (KORN, ERROR.) SHE IS FROM THE EAST COAST. SHE WRITES SONGS IN A LATE HOUR LOCKED IN A BEDROOM SITUATION. SHE PLAYS THE GUITAR AND KEYBOARDS. IO ECHO IS NOW BEING PLAYED ON 103.1 with 'Addicted' being labeled "Song of the Day"
Confusing. The ensemble consisted of Joanna Gikas, a serially earnest lady wearing a cape (or was it a Snuggie?), flanked by four ascetic Dudes with Interesting Haircuts. The whole sense of drama was outdated -- Gikas, who has a perfectly nice singing voice à la Karen O or Dolores O'Riordan, kept lifting her arms up in a sort of fabric-draped Christ pose as she sang things like "You're the boy I choose to love" and "Bring me to life" and "Can you hear the singing swan?" -- but there was nothing wrong with the band's alterna-dirgemongering that wasn't very right in 1995.To their credit, the band members didn't seem to let opening for TV on the Radio go to their heads too much: they were a little out of their depth and knew it, mule-with-a-spinning-wheel-style, but they didn't put on airs. They were just as cool and/or lame as they would have been under any circumstances. Critic's notebook:
Disclaimer: Lighting conditions were difficult. A nontrivial portion of my notes turned out to be illegible.
Personal bias: My feelings on TV on the Radio can be hard for me to separate from my feelings on America writ large sometimes, owing to a particularly stellar show I saw shortly after Obama's election, which skews the critical radar a little bit. Still, I can report being just as happy and proud as ever to watch them, in a way altogether unrelated to the recent death of Osama bin Laden.