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Published: 2008/10/21
by Matthew Fleming

TV on the Radio, The Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA- 10/10

Sometimes the stars align. Some nights things just fall into place. For residents of Philadelphia, last Friday proved to be such a night. Thirty minutes after the Phillies secured an 8-5 win over the Dodgers in game 2 of the NLCS, crowds filed into The Electric Factory for the first North American date of TV on the Radio’s fall tour. Inside, Detroit garage punk/soul vets The Dirtbombs delivered a hooking opening set, stopping only twice in their hour. The high spirits were tangible, the crowd drunk on victory, and anxious for the New York artists to join the celebration.

A fevered reception greeted the band, emerging to the synth blanket, tambourine taps, and cooing of “Young Liars.” For a long time listener seeing his first show, this instantly set my blood to boil, and seemed a more than fitting pacesetter for a night with high expectation. “Thank you for taking my hands!” led Tunde Abebimpe, dancing across the stage while Kip Malone harmonized beside him in a web of broken guitar strings. The passion emitted from the band was as immediately inviting as it was intense, almost a dare to participate. “Thanks for having rhythm,” offered Adebimpe between songs, “Poughkeepsie has no rhythm!” Truer applause is rare caviar.

After the time travel tempo of new tune “Dancing Choose” subsided came the Dear Science single “Golden Age,” whose euphoria comes not only from easy danceability, but from what at first feels like familiarity. The easy drum and bass beat seize the listener’s hips and shoulders, while the swells of synth and saxophone raise heart rate and make persistent smiling almost painful. Malone’s soft verse style is complemented by Adebimpe’s vocal elevation in the shared refrain and chorus. The silky changes of tempo and tone evoke Off the Wall-era MJ shaken and stirred with Ladytron fuzz, all on top of spitfire rhymes and left-field saxophone rises from Martin Perna. Such perfectly offbeat arrangements can be blamed on sample guru and programmer David Andrew Sitek, who could also be seen playing his chime-laden guitar with a drumstick. The end result is a new classic that unmistakably belongs only to TV on the Radio.

After a greeting, the subsiding of joy proved brief, when out of an unfamiliar groove came the opening lyrics of “Wolf Like Me.” As the traditional accompaniment kicked in and spiced the frenzy taking place in the front rows, the trickle down effect was immediate. The Return to Cookie Mountain classic led into a christening of “Halfway Home,” another new flyer from Dear Science that plays out like a dream sequence visit from TV-ubergroupie David Bowie. It’s fast. It’s cerebral. It flies. The Brooklyn maestros then dished future oldies “Province” & “Dreams” to nourish the true believers, before catapulting the mood with the sublimely haunting “Blues From Down Here,” where Adebimpe’s sirens sounded like ransom demands until his final shrieks revealed more than anyone had paid for. However, the moment when you know you should’ve called more friends revealed itself in “Shout Me Out,” a pleading new creation that snuck up on the crowd, wearing a chilled, ambient restraint before freeing itself via furious Jaleel Bunton drums and head-down guitar & programming from his co-sculptors. A short disappearance meant only a deep breath until “Love Dogs” cooled the crowd down before the full-circle whistling of “A Method” restarted the clamor. In no hurry, the band members turned every surface into an instrument and every man into a percussionist while bassist Gerard Smith slid behind the organ, adding a slick coat to the canvas on stage. Once the a cappella chimes and catcalls stilled, the hums and patience from the musicians pitched into a walk-off “Staring at the Sun” that served as a final thank you for accepting the dare to not only to participate, but to contribute.

The ease and grace of execution shined the light on TV on the Radio for what they are as a band, as a unit, a sophisticated club of entrepreneurial musical boy scouts who have all earned multiple badges. Their collective work is as much a spectacle as an auditory leap of faith.

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