they might be giants

They Might Be Giants plays Hobart

I’m fortunate enough to have seen three of my all-time top-five musical artists live. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen Paul Kelly live – the most recent was in 2011 for one of his A to Z shows.


I saw REM in Sydney in 2005 on their Around the Sun tour.


And I saw They Might Be Giants in Canberra in 1997. 


Yeah, I’ve held on to this for 16 years

I’ve been a fan of They Might Be Giants since my friend Liz introduced me to their 1990 album Flood. The TMBG recordings, while not at fan-girl completist levels (largely because I’m missing a lot of their podcasts), make up one of the largest collections in my CD library.


Since 1997 I think they have been back to Australia only once, in 2001. When I heard earlier this year that not only were they going to tour Australia, but there was a possibility Tasmania might be getting a concert, I was pretty excited.


The initial tour dates were announced . . . and Hobart wasn’t included. I wasn’t altogether surprised, because we often miss out on acts coming here. But as time went on, more dates were added to the tour and (to screams of excitement from me and some Twitter friends) a show in Hobart.


Tickets were promptly purchased, and then the long period of anticipation before the show began. Perhaps what made this more fun than most loooong waits, was the ability to follow TMBG on Twitter, tell them how excited we were that they were coming, and hear about the tour preparations and, closer to the date, how the other shows on the tour had gone.  


That’s when it started to get really exciting: hearing about the set lists from other shows and wondering which songs we’d get to hear.


To get ready for the show, I devoted my entire radio program the week before to TMBG and played some of my favourite tracks dating back to their first releases in 1986. 


I asked John F on Twitter what is one thing TMBG would like me to say to my listeners, and he replied, “Melody is where we’re at!” And indeed it is – one of the band’s slogans is “Installing and Servicing Melody Since 1982”.

The night arrives

And finally, after weeks of anticipation, TMBG Day was here!


The show was at the Wrest Point Show Room, which is a venue I’d never been to before. By the time we got there, the centre of the room was pretty full, front to back, so we found ourselves a place off to the side of the stage, almost but not quite behind the speakers, but close to the front. The best thing about that spot was being able to see some of the behind the scenes activity and also the fact that no one else really wanted to stand there, so we had a fair bit of space to dance in. (Yes, I actually danced. In public.)


So what about the show?

Dodgy iPhone photo

Well, my first reaction was that it was amazing. I was so pumped. It was the most fun I’ve had in, like, forever. Really. The set list was a great mix of old and new songs, and I knew them all.

There were a couple of songs that stood out for me as highlights because I especially wanted to hear them played live, and TMBG did not disappoint.

Best shot I managed to get from our vantage point

Firstly, Fingertips, the composite song made up of 21 individual tracks from the album Apollo 18. I noticed it had cropped up in some of the earlier shows, so I was really hoping we’d get to hear it too. (It’s the perfect song to use to introduce Juniordwarf to TMBG and he’s become quite attached to it.)


An unexpected, but very much appreciated treat, was the instrumental version of The Famous Polka (I deliberately didn’t examine the previous set lists too closely so that there would still be an element of surprise for me). Highly energetic and infectiously so. 


And a song that I’ve only recently got to know well, The Mesopotamians, which is just so cute. Can a song be cute? Surely. Well I think I have a little crush on Sargon, Hammurabi, Ashurbanipal and Gilgamesh now.

Flans in action

The band really rocked the whole show. What a fantastic evening!

The full set list

(100% accuracy not guaranteed due to a mild case of over-excitement)
  • When Will You Die
  • Don’t Let’s Start
  • Memo To Human Resources
  • Letterbox
  • Call You Mom
  • Circular Karate Chop
  • Birdhouse In Your Soul
  • Fingertips
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dr Worm (featuring John L on the accordian)
  • The Famous Polka
  • Cowtown
  • Cloisonné (the song that features the bass clarinet – John F told the story on a radio interview of how previously they had toured with a bass sax, which in hindsight had been a bit big to be transporting all over the place for only one song, so this time they were bringing the bass clarinet. It sat there all evening just begging to be played.)


The bass clarinet has its moment in the sun
  • Nanobots
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople
  • Eye Of The Tiger (instrumental
  • He’s Loco (performed by the John and John Avatars of They on screen while the band had a short break)
  • Lost My Mind
  • Put Your Hand Inside The Puppet Head
  • New York City
  • Ana Ng
  • You’re On Fire
  • Damn Good Times

Encore 1

  • Clap Your Hands
  • The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)
  • Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas)

Encore 2

  • The Mesopotamians
  • Dead

I liked the book-ending of the show with songs referencing death. I also thought it was neat that they played The Guitar, with its spaceship references, on the day that the crew from the International Space Station Mission 35 returned to Earth, though possibly that was just good timing rather than a deliberate inclusion, as the song cropped up on other shows during the tour.


(Speaking of space missions, I also found out, while I was researching my radio program, that NASA had asked TMBG to be Musical Ambassadors for International Space Year in 1992. Cool.) 


So – this ranks right up there as one of the most fun nights of my life. Thank you John and John for including us in your tour and for putting on such a memorable show. Please come back soon!

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