I’ve heard from numerous sources that the dance floor at the Commodore is supported by a layer of tennis balls, but I’ve never had cause to believe it until TV on the Radio unknowingly put this hearsay to the test. During a visceral take on their 2006 hit “Wolf Like Me”, the band whipped the crowd into a pogo-jumping frenzy, stretching Vancouver’s Bounciest Dance Floor to its limit. It was the high point of an energetic set from the Brooklyn five-piece, which drew heavily from the band’s last album, Return to Cookie Mountain.
The band’s electronic, harmony-driven sound translated differently from studio to stage, and with only two vocalists, the burden fell upon the rest of the band to pick up the slack. Guitarist David Andrew Sitek hung wind chimes from the headstock of his guitar and cranked up the gain, creating warm textures of reverb and fuzz. Gerald Smith bounced between his bass and various synthesizers, spending most of the set sitting demurely, barely visible behind his own set-up. And in lieu of electronic beats, drummer Jaleel Bunton gave the band’s pounding rhythms a human touch.
But, despite the efforts of every member of the band, the show was stolen by frontman Tunde Adebimpe. It was impossible not to be captivated by the bespectacled singer as he shimmied and clapped his way around the stage, gesticulating flamboyantly with his microphone-free hand. His energy was palpable, and transformed “Young Liars”, the slow-burning title track from their 2003 EP, into a full-fledged rocker. He frequently joked with fans near the front, and laughed for no apparent reason between songs; some comic relief, perhaps, to off-set the intensity of the music.
TV on the Radio have a new album, Dear Science, due out September 23rd, and guitarist/singer Kyp Malone introduced the new material apologetically, perhaps sensing that the audience was more eager to hear the band’s back catalogue. The energy in the room lessened somewhat during the new songs, although this will likely change later in the tour, after the album drops and audiences are more familiar with the material.
The band wrapped up their set with an accelerated version of their debut single, “Staring at the Sun”. It was a well-chosen closer, as the audience was incited to revisit their pogo dance moves, clapping along with the song’s driving downbeats. Tennis balls or not, TV on the Radio had the place literally bouncing.
Posted: Sep 22, 2008