Live Review: They Might Be Giants and Jonathan Coulton at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 2/10/12
In the first of a two-night sold out weekend at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, They Might Be Giants took a well-deserved break from the “family” shows. Don’t misunderstand, the typical family show takes place at 2:00PM on a Saturday afternoon, and is filled with gems from the TMBG kid-era No! and the Here Comes series (the ABCs, the 123s, Science). These back-to-normal regular shows are all rock and grown-up talk. Originally a duo with John Linnell and John Flansburgh gracing small stages in the mid- to late-eighties with a guitar, an accordian and a drum machine, the Two Johns now have a phenomenol backing band that really know how to rock.
The evening was filled with 25 years of TMBG hits, but especially songs from the latest 18-track release Join Us (Idlewild Records). From that, “Can’t Keep Johnny Down,” “You Probably Get That A Lot,” “Old Pine Box,” “Celebration” and “When Will You Die” were standouts. They have brought back some of that early sound that made them famous in the fist place (catchy, quirky, hooky and fun).
Interspersed between songs were the Avatars of They (John and John’s alter-egos in puppet form). The two sock puppets are able to say inappropriate things and get all political but it’s okay. They’re only puppets. The crowd was also part of the show, as when they were divided down the middle by a spotlight from the stage to the balcony. Stage left was apes, while stage right was people. Each side competed by raising fists in the air and screaming. People won.
From the old stuff, fans heard “Subliminal,” “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” “Snowball In Hell,” “Cowtown,” “James K. Polk,” “Particle Man,” “The Guitar” and “Fingertips.” Two encores included “Doctor Worm” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” among others. The band is rounded out by Dan Miller, Danny Weinkauf and power drummer Marty Beller. These three guys complete TMBG. The Two Johns have come along way since the drum machine days. This is an excellent band.
The opening act was Jonathan Coulton (“and the Coultoneers”), a trio assembled not unlike the Giants (quirky, poppy melodies with smart and witty lyrics). Coulton played much of his recent release Artificial Heart (Jocoserious Records), plus fan favorites “Code Monkey” and “Still Alive.” But it was “Re: Your Brains” that really got the crowd involved. The song is about a poor schlub who becomes a zombie and now wants to return to work. The audience quickly learned the chorus (“All we want to do is eat your brains”) and Coulton filled in the rest of the song with hilarious lyrics (“We’re not unreasonable, I mean no one’s gonna eat your eyes”). It’s an instant classic and possibly the most memorable song of the entire evening.
Look for both on tour and enjoy great music and videos at tmbg.com and/or jonathancoulton.com