God bless us, there are many, many things that we are good at in Australia. There are also many, many things that we are not good at. Clapping in time to music definitely belongs to the latter category. As much as we might try, getting a large group of Australians together in a room, playing some music to them and asking them to clap in time with it is the equivalent of asking them to solve Fermat’s Last Theorem whilst developing a perpetual motion machine that also provides a lasting two state solution in Palestine. It just can’t be done. Or even gotten close to actually. The results generally vary somewhere between being not particularly good and really rather exceptionally bad. But we do give it a go. Until we lose interest, timing, motivation or any combination of the above. TV On The Radio’s gig at the Forum illustrated this perfectly; they were exceptional and the audience participation was everything that you would expect so there never was any danger of the quality of our respective musical outputs coinciding. As it was, we simply stood back in awe at the genre melting entity that is TV On The Radio.
Even before the gig commenced, TV On The Radio earned immediate kudos for having their set start at 9:30. As far as set times go, this is a pretty good one. Possibly a little bit too good in the end as we were forced to do a frantic tour of the city between Russell and Spring Streets trying to find somewhere to eat that a) didn’t have a 45 minute wait for a table and b) could turn around a meal in under half an hour. This led to a frantic scramble to Movida, Grand Trailer Park Taverna, lots of other places in between and then finally (and successfully) to a ramen place on Bourke Street. As expected, the new Urbanspoon, Zomato was absolutely useless in assisting with this. Zomato truly is the New Coke of the app world.
Anywho, after a not particularly long wait due to the aforementioned dinner related imbroglio; it was time to begin. In terms of setting a scene, Young Liars was perfect; it had the same type of gradual slow burn as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, except unlike this book, it actually goes somewhere and was interesting (that being said, only halfway through. Stuff could foreseeably happen, but it would be nice if it happened soon).
The fact that the set was pretty heavily Seeds focussed really wasn’t an issue as Seeds is actually rather good. New album tours can be fraught with danger if the new album isn’t up to the standard of previous releases. A case in point is Blur coming up in a few weeks. That is not to say that The Magic Whip is a bad album per se; it just takes all the fun elements of Blur and bludgeons them over the head with a blunt object for having the temerity to emerge. If Beetlebum was on this album, it would be the light hearted, feel good opener. This is a bit of a worry when it wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack to Requiem for a Dream. But back to TV On The Radio; Lazerray, Happy Idiot, Careful You, Could You and Ride did not feel out of place against a pretty outstanding back catalogue. Winter was perfect aperitif for Wolf Like Me which metaphorically exploded immediately straight after it. Wolf Like Me was one of those special moments where planets align, all sort of other clichés occur and everything comes together; the crowd bouncing during the frenetic chorus and then slowed down to a crawl for the “Dream me, oh dreamer” bit before picking up again for an equally frenzied finish. Sometimes the anticipation outweighs the actual event and you are left with what is known as the Matrix Reloaded Effect. This was not one of those instances. It was a great moment and one fitting of a venue such as the Forum.
As you’ve probably already guessed, as a band, TV On The Radio were in fine form. Kyp Malone’s voice and beard were in immaculate condition; Dave Sitek had a fairly significant array of guitars and pedals at his disposal that he used to perfection, Jaleel Bunton was pretty much doing everything without raising a sweat and Jahphet Landis (whose birthday caused an ill-advised crowd attempt at singing Happy Birthday To You) had the sort of arm flailing action that would have made Animal proud. Whilst generally singers can sing high, low and variations thereupon, very few would be able to match the vocal dexterity of Tunde Adebimpe. Blink-182 certainly can’t. They take the approach of not singing in these specified locations, or even at all. Admittedly this is a recurring theme, but Christ they were terrible. Even 17 years on I can’t believe how rubbish they were. The memory of that train wreck of a set still painted freshly in my mind….oh dear… however now back to Tunde. If there was one song throughout the night the best exemplified this, it was Dancing Choose. If Tunde was solely a rapper, you would say that “yes, this chap is rather good”. But then he breaks into the chorus and you are left wondering whether it is the same person who has produced such disparate, amazing sounds. All whilst wearing a rather smashing boiler suit. Fair to say the boiler suit hasn’t really kicked on from its Clockwork Orange heyday. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the world really could do without additional ultra-violence, pain in the gullivers or Lovely Ludwig Van. Staring At The Sun was a great yet ironic way to finish the set. Whilst we in Melbourne have a vague understanding of the general concept of the sun; in winter our familiarity is limited to some long neglected and apparently unloved synapses. The thought was nice though.
A TV On The Radio gig has something for just about anyone, borrowing quite heavily from the genre known as “excellent”. Through five studio albums, TV On The Radio have continued to evolve and leave fans with bated breath as to what their next stylistic direction will be. Seeing them play live reiterates that fact that you will never be able to guess as the versatility and skill within the line-up means that anything is possible.