To Die By Your Side

(From The Archives) TV On The Radio – Birmingham Academy 2 8/12/2008

August 31st, 2018

It starts with sleigh bells. A distant howl of a familiar melody. And just as you’re settling in to the gentle opening, ‘Young Liars’ explodes into life, a post rock wall of guitars signalling the arrival of TV On The Radio. It’s startling. Stunning. You can almost feel the wave of noise knock you back slightly. And it doesn’t let up. Not for the next hour and a half at least. ‘Young Liars’ dies down, replaced by a frenetic take on ‘The Wrong Way’. Sped up and played with complete abandon. An accelerated underground garage punk take that bears little in common to it’s recorded incarnation. It’s clear tonight is not going to be a join the dots replication of their recorded output. For if TVOTR are hard to pin down on record, then live, it’s a near impossibility. While their studio releases may span a range of genres, styles and influences, their live show goes further. Blurring the lines that join them. Distorting them into a dense, heavy mass. You want to dance. You’re just not sure how to.

The problem is, that while this blistering attack of sound suits the older songs, new tracks suffer in comparison. On record the lighter touch of production on ‘Dear Science’ allows the songs a poppier feel. A fact which seems at odds with the night’s intensity. While the brutality suits ‘Wolf Like Me’, the treatment afforded the likes of ‘Golden Age’ and ‘Dancing Choose’ seems a tad heavy handed. They still work. They just feel a little sloppy in parts. As though the band are as yet unsure how to play them. Maybe haven’t fully got to grips with the task of incorporating them into the live show. Either that or they’re just playing faster and fiercer because it’s the last night of the tour.

It doesn’t help that The Academy’s infamously awful sound and levels are all over the place. The twin vocals are in fine voice, but are occasionally lost beneath the layers of sound. At other times, the bass buzzes so loud, the floor vibrates. The music literally moving your feet. For a band whose production and layers are normally so methodically precise, the venue is unforgiving. The rawness of their live sound amplified by the limitations of the venue. It is therefore some sign of TV On The Radio’s talent that they overcome these troubles.

From the off, Tunde Adebimpe is animated and energised, the focal point of the band. Arms jutting and cutting into the air, gestures punctuating his vocals. Dancing around the stage as Kyp Malone stands to his right, wringing an equal mixture of funky and impenetrable sounds from his guitar. Across the other side stands David Sitek. Side on to the audience, he faces his band, as though he can’t escape his role of producer, looking on and directing them. He hollers along word for word, eventually raising a drum above his head during the percussion heavy ’A Method’, the attached mic finally giving volume to his voice. Clearly the band are enjoying themselves. Feeding off the crowd and ending this tour with a performance that manages to add yet more layers to their songs. The smooth studio production replaced by a rawer, more feral intensity.

If time flies when you’re having fun then these ninety minutes zip by. Before you know it, ‘Staring At The Sun’ is closing the show. One more highlight in what has been a complex, heavy, fast and furious performance.

Listen to TV On The Radio – Red Dress (Live Session Version) below.

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