Venue: The Pageant
City: St. Louis, Missouri
Date: 15 September 2007
Opening Act: Oppenheimer
I don't remember the exact setlist or anything from the show, but it was pretty great. (For someone else's transcription of the setlist, see This Might Be a Wiki.) I went with a large group of people based around my band and met a few other friends who went afterward (specifically, the dudes over at Highway 61 Revised, who also wrote a short review). Oppenheimer, a Northern Irish sort of electro-indie pop duo, opened. They played about nine fast songs and got a little bit of crowd movement. They relied heavily on samples for most of their tracks, but the live parts (drumming, singing, guitar, and some keyboard) were spot-on.
Once They Might Be Giants came on, the crowd was pretty excited. There was some movement with the dancier songs. The mood was good but seemed calmer than I would have expected – and I think the two Johns that compose the core of the band reflected that. Flansburgh, who handles the guitar, seemed in a mostly good but slightly sedate mood, while Linnell, the keyboardist/accordionist, seemed a bit more down. He didn't really smile much, but he did perform well. The two Johns traded singing roles and were accompanied by another guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer, all three of whom seemed to be having a good time.
I enjoyed it all pretty well. The song selection included plenty of old favorites ("Ana Ng", "The Guitar", "Birdhouse in Your Soul", "Why Does the Sun Shine", "Istanbul", "Dr. Worm", "Particle Man", etc.) and was mixed with some back catalogue fun, like the really weird "Spider", and a bevy of songs from the new album, The Else. The classics were all done really well, but typically extended or toyed with just a little bit to make them interesting (which, by the way, is exactly what I like bands to do with their standby classics). "Why Does the Sun Shine" included a little bit about something like the atom-smashing reactions on the sun being caused by "a failed foreign policy, a failed domestic policy, and a failed presidency", which got a large round of applause. "Istanbul" was preceded by a long and impressive acoustic guitar solo by the second guitarist.
I did miss out on a lot of what seemed to be in-jokes and obscure references, since I'm not an obsessive fan but dig their material. There was a big thing about Buddy Ebsen and pretending to call him from beyond the grave, and I really couldn't figure out what was going on too well. I didn't feel too alienated, though, because they did joke about Mississippi Nights, the now-gone St. Louis venue that the band had played at several times before. The music was good, and when the humor came out here and there, they were usually funny (although I had expected even more humor), so all was good. They make for a really fun show.
[Retrospective Score for Oppenheimer: B-]