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TV On The Radio At The Annenberg Space for Photography, Saturday July 25th 2015 Review

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TV On The Radio


‘Young Liars’ was the perfect opening for TV On the Radio’s concert at The Annenberg Space for Photography, the first of their ‘Sound in Focus’ concert series presented by KCRW. The slow building effect of the song was majestic, transcending the place, I may have had a sort of out of body experience at this instant, and being at the front certainly didn’t spoil any second of the moment. During the whole show they seemed to send lasers in the sky with a supersonic intensity, Tunde Adebimpe’s magnetic presence, David Sitek’s guitar drone and a funk-punk restless sound.

With TVOTR, the music becomes palpable, it become this huge entity that materializes in front of you, entirely absorbs you, sucks your brain like a vortex,… you are floating in a vast ocean of sounds, you want to be part of the whole universe like this star fetus floating in space at the end of 2001 space odyssey,… I was reading ‘Spaced out’ on the shirt of multi-instrumentalist Jaleel Bunton, yeah I was one with the universe and my head exploded! No I hadn’t taken anything before the show, and this did not repeat for all their songs, but there was a real feeling of empowerment and triumph all over their set of expansive and multi-faceted music.

There was funk, punk noise and fuzz, grooves and catchiness from song to song, it was complex and satisfying, covering music history in just a few songs, embracing so many rhythms at once, from electronic post-dance parties to synth funk and furious punk urgency. At any time of the show, Adebimpe occupied the whole stage with an anxious walk and theatrical gesture, while his powerhouse vocals dominated the already very busy sonic space, literally carrying all the melodies at arm length, while stoic Dave Sitek was playing his whirlpool-sounding guitar with a wind chime hanging off it and imperturbable Kyp Malone looked like the eye of the storm or the rock we should all hang on. But there also was a horn and trombone player, sub-layers of electronics all intertwined in a magnificent and adventurous wall of sound.

They alternated between earthshaking songs and quieter ones, although nothing was even close to quiet, the whole show sounded like a tempest of sounds, imaginative, surprising you at each minute, even if you were familiar with their work. Of course they played a few songs from their last album ‘Seeds’, giving us the ice-y detachment of ‘Happy Idiot’, the punk bliss of ‘Lazerray’ the vocal harmonies covering triumphant horns of ‘Could You’ and the abrasive guitar of ‘Winter’, ‘a summer song about winter’, as Adempimpe said.

At time, their fuzz and throb sounded menacing, gradually building an intricate chaos of sounds, at time, Adepimpe’s vocals were the only thing you could hear. As expected, there were the hits, ‘Wolf Like Me’, ‘Mercy’ received by the crowd with head moves and ground waves due to the jumping going on. They had to come back for an encore, with a song off their most recent album, ‘Trouble’, and Adepimpe’s sweet and fierce vocals, told us ‘Everything’s gonna be all right’, which may have looked like a too simple message after all this complex storm of sound layers they had thrown on us for an hour, but this simple statement may have been the perfect ending after all.

I had seen TVOTR before, during their performance at the FYF fest a few years ago but I hadn’t enjoyed their set as I did last night, it was the end of a long day at a festival, I had seen 30 bands during the afternoon and I was fighting against the crowd to see a glimpse of their heads. It took me some time to realize what an original and powerful force in music they really are, pushing their exploration toward new territories, not letting the tragedy stop their appetite for colorful punk funk music – TVOTR bassist Gerard Smith sadly died of cancer in 2011. But they also are a socially conscious band, right? And they still are, despite the fact that their most recent albums have lyrics more personal than their first ones. During one of the most powerful moments of the show, Tunde Adebimpe shouted ‘Sandra Bland, Sandra Bland’ half way through ‘Repetition’ and made the crowd say her name too, and I don’t know if they did it 14 times, the number of times Sandra asked why she was being arrested, but it seemed this way.


Young Liars
Happy Idiot
Golden Age
Could you
Wolf Like Me
Blues from Down Here
Staring at the Sun


More pictures of the show here.


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