TV on the Radio – Kings Theatre – May 20, 2015
For all of their prowess and earned accolades, TV on the Radio have always come across as a neighborhood band, the kind you’d see watching a Knicks game at local bar, coming up with their songs. It’s because of their familiarity and accessibility that you feel closer to them when they perform, and this mood was apparent last night at Brooklyn’s Kings Theatre, a place that reinforces the intimacy of sharing song and expression. “Thank you very much for coming to this beautiful fucking theater,” said frontman Tunde Adebimpe, “It’s very nice to be home.” The band had been relatively quiet the past three years, turning inward and out of sight to process the passing of bassist Gerard Smith, but they have been eager to tour behind their newest record, Seeds, and this enthusiasm was felt from the start.
The first block of the show was almost entirely dedicated to flaunting their new work, but the introduction of “Young Liars,” rolling in gradually with the meditative sprawl that brought to mind Talk Talk or Yo La Tengo then building to exultation, let concertgoers know how far this group has come. Adibempe’s vocal refrain of “Thank you for taking my hand” absorbed all in attendance. Through lyrics that have always revealed a search to measure and understand the fluctuation of emotions connected to modern romance and meaningful rumination, Adebimpe is able to sound vulnerable without sounding soft. You can hear the seasoning of the soul that comes with experience of tangled relationships, and while he may have been hurt, he ain’t no punk, able to resurface and revisit his past through music that carries the tonal gravity substantive enough to meet the profundity of his offerings of existential observation.
The thing about live performance is that the room is open to be filled as much as the band can push out. Songs can be expanded on parts that are contained in a recording, and new tempos can be assigned to make tunes more suitable for live format—“Careful You” and “DLZ” were such examples, the latter rocked out in a manner that recalled Living Colour. The intention of Seeds was to make you want to sing along, and that took on a particular significance in TV on the Radio’s hometown. The songs echoed and resonated. With much of the new material covered, “Wolf Like Me” brought a howling response from the audience. The classic “A Method” began like a baseball-stadium organist made to play at gunpoint, and the home team, TVOTR, was joined onstage by opening act Bo Ningen, with everyone banging on anything they could find, bottles, loose cymbals, all pulsing against the venue’s walls. Witnessing TV on the Radio on the Kings Theatre stage last night, still united and in sync after more than a decade of comings and goings of countless other rock-fusion groups, brought both warmth and chills, and the triumphant feeling that some bands will always be there with us, right around the corner. —Charles Steinberg