They Might Be Giants Manchester Academy

Words & Image By Kristofer Thomas

Some will know They Might Be Giants from their excellent late 80s output, with albums Flood and Lincoln acting as high watermarks in the transitional period between college radio alt-rock and the following wave of grunge. Others will know them from their Malcolm in the Middle opening song ‘Boss Of Me’, but I imagine this song is to TMBG as ‘Creep’ is to Radiohead. A third group will know them for their Grammy award-winning kids’ albums and their extensive tangents into experimental compositions and unexpected, curveball genres.

Whether or not you have heard of the Lincoln, Massachusetts alt-rock band, you will undoubtedly have heard their musical output. Tracks such as tonight’s encore double billing ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ and ‘Istanbul (Not Constantinople)’ perfectly encapsulate the best elements from 90s guitar geek-rock – all clever wordplay and angular, jittering riffs. Where both of these songs are products of the band’s early career, the preceding set list had effectively covered all eras and aspects of They Might Be Giants’ history.

To the surprisingly busy Academy 2 venue, TMBG played all the hits, lifting the spirits of many with jazz saxophone breakdowns, a Destiny’s Child cover and some genuinely funny between-song banter. They Might Be Giants’ live show may not be groundbreaking or particularly awe-inspiring, and the exclusion of the brilliant ‘Ana Ng’ from the night was a notable disappointment, but it is rare that a band of their considerable lifespan is still able to make grown men smile with unadulterated glee, which they achieve by conjuring up a joyous, jovial atmosphere on a rainy Monday night.

As the gig started, core member John Flansburgh joked that the doors were now locked and even if we wanted to neither band nor audience could leave. In retrospect, this would have been the best scenario for all attending as, by the end, few wanted the night to be over and maybe if forced to remain they would have played ‘Ana Ng’.

They Might Be Giants performed at Academy 2 on Monday 1st February 2016.

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