Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Ross Bonaime
Over the course of TV on the Radio’s career, they’ve gone from creating sounds unlike anything I had heard prior to Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, to a much more mainstream, pure rock sound. When I first saw TV on the Radio, they were on the small stage at one of the first VirginFests, but they still blew away other artists like Beastie Boys and Amy Winehouse that played on the larger stage. I’ve seen them play small stages to packing Merriweather. TV on the Radio have become relatively huge, even if their sound has become a little less strange, to the point that I was surrounded by several families with small children when TV on the Radio came to Echostage.
While I’ve anticipated every other TV on the Radio album with bated breath, I haven’t even listened to all of their newest album Seeds yet, because deep down in my heart, I know I won’t hear anything as strangely dissonant as “Staring at the Sun” or as unequivocally exciting as “Wolf Like Me.” Being my fifth time seeing TV on the Radio, I should’ve known that once again, they would blow me away and sell me on their newest music once again.
I was not familiar with opener Bo Ningen, a Japanese quartet who formed in London, but they immediately left an impression. Bo Ningen sounds sort of like if Savages and Boris formed a supergroup and it’s about as awesome as that sounds. Everyone in the band has hair so long, often members had to hold it back or keep it in their mouths to even see their instruments, making them sort of look like a group of Samaras from The Ring. But their half hour set was a nonstop flurry of insane guitar riffs and even a bit of guitar throwing and twirling. Even though their music is – from what I can tell – completely in Japanese, the incredible amount of sound and fun they bring to the stage sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the night.
TV on the Radio came out to “Ride” from Seeds – a song that starts off slow, then kicks in hard – which sounds like it was made for starting up a great set. They then follow this up with “Lazerray” and then lead the audience into clapping to the beat of “Golden Age.” TVOTR’s set is about half Seeds material, scattered occasionally with older favorites, yet no material from their album Nine Types of Light. “Golden Age” is where the show really comes to life, bringing out the trombones and furiously fast strumming.
Their next chunk featured many of Seeds best songs, with “Happy Idiot,” “Could You” and “Winter” knocking out three greats from their latest. Maybe the night’s biggest reaction came from the stage lights turning green and the opening drum beat to “Wolf Like Me” starting, warning the audience that shit was about to get crazy. “Wolf Like Me” has long been one of my favorite songs and when the song explodes in the last minute, it’s one of the best live experiences and everyone just gets nuts.
The second half of their set brings the proceedings to a softer area, with the beautiful “Careful You” and taking things acoustic with Seeds’ best song “Trouble” bringing about a gorgeous crowd sing-a-long. When the blue lights change on the stage, we get into the darker, more aggressive side of TVOTR, with “Blues From Down Here” and the menacingly great “DLZ.”
Ending their set with “A Method,” TVOTR brought out their opening act to use cymbals, stray drums, beer bottles, anything to make a beat with. Site pours some water on the drums to create a great effect when they get slammed on. TVOTR has done a similar presentation of “A Method” for years, but it’s still fun.
Their encore saves two of their best songs for last, with “Young Liars” bringing them back to the stage for a smooth, slow version and “Staring at the Sun,” a perfect way to end their set.
While Seeds might not be their most experimental album, TV on the Radio live makes these songs so much greater, their greatest songs are boosted substantially from seeing them live. Tunde, Sitek and everyone else in the band blows these songs out of the water, sometimes reinventing them and bringing a level of excitement to these songs, almost as if they hadn’t played them a million times.