Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Triumphant Return

September 29, 2011 - The National - Richmond, VA

Hello all! Remember me? You know how I used to write up recaps of all the shows I went to? You may have noticed that I just kind of stopped partway through the tour last year. So here's what happened. I got behind in recaps at the end of the tour because the shows were coming too fast and furious and I was dealing with Dan's birthday card while I was waiting in line when I would normally be working on recaps. Then I had a busy couple of weeks at work before the next chunk of tour and I just didn't get back to them. And then there were more shows and then more. And somewhere in there my real life kind of blew up for a bit. I broke up with my boyfriend. I started going to shows alone. And then there were so many unwritten recaps it was intimidating to even think of going back and working on them. 

And now a lot of the details are lost in my memory. But there are still some great pieces of those shows I didn't get to that deserve sharing. So I'm gonna attempt to go back and fill in some of the blanks. These recaps will be shorter than usual and not as detailed but at least they will exist. So let's travel back to September and pick up where we left of shall we? This first recap was actually half written very shortly after the show and then completed now, so the beginning is quite detailed and then it fades out with my memory. It also fully assumes you read the preceding recaps, so if you haven't or you don't remember them, you should go back and read/reread the recap from The Orange Peel on 9/28/11 to get yourself up to speed. 

This was without a doubt, the most stressful pre-show experience of this leg of the tour. This was the show Gary had used his IFC tickets for, so we were supposed to be collecting our tickets from will call before the show. But we had heard (and even been there for) some nightmare stories from other friends about troubles with the IFC guest list and the box office not getting it in a timely fashion. Adding to this worry, this theater has an early entry deal with the restaurant next door where if you eat there and buy $20 worth of food you can get in to the theater ten minutes early. 

When we arrived, the box office was not yet open and no one else was there. We got to hear sound check through the walls which was quite exiting as they ran through Take Out the Trash, Subliminal (yay!) and XTC vs Adam Ant, which I had only ever heard once. This was also a pretty good sign to me that Danny had been right and Dan was back because I was pretty darn sure that was NOT Flans playing that guitar solo. I assumed they were probably running all these songs in preparation for the Boston shows on Saturday which turned out to be more or less true. 

There was no indication anywhere of what time the box office was going to open and as it got later and later we got more concerned because not a soul had turned up to stand in line. Every single potential fan we saw went straight into the restaurant to eat and get in early. The last time we went to The National we didn't do the early entry and were first in line outside. There was a small crowd inside when we got in but we were still able to get front row. This time that seemed highly unlikely given that zero people had thus far opted against early entry. And making things worse, when the box office did open, they didn't have the guest list. We were told to check back in 20 minutes (a mere 15 minutes before the doors were to open to the restaurant crowd). We opted to go eat in the restaurant so we could get in and have Gary run back out to get tickets during our meal. It turned out we were nearly too late to be served for early entry by that point too. The waitress had to rush our order and we paid before we even started eating. That was the fastest I have ever scarfed down chicken fingers in a sit down restaurant. 

Gary did successfully run out to grab our tickets during the meal and we just finished in time for the early doors. Only to discover that the doors had been delayed because JoCo was still sound checking. Gah.

Once inside the theater, Gary went to grab his swag bag while I picked a spot. After confirming that yes, Dan's pedal board was definitely back on stage, I picked a spot at his feet so as to best appreciate his triumphant return. I doubt I will ever again be so glad to see the Dan-Tone 3000 (and I am always glad to see the Dan-Tone 3000).

I chatted a bit with the couple next to me about past shows we had both been to and favorite opening acts of the past. A lot of the discussion was about Oppenheimer but I think they liked JoCo quite a bit after his set.

I only remember two things of note from the JoCo set. First that he broke a string in one of the first songs and had to switch guitars. And second that Christian accidentally started I Feel Fantastic a song too early which made JoCo and Brandon laugh pretty hard. 

The TMBG setlist: When Will You Die - We Live In A Dump - The Mesopotamians - New York City - Don't Lets Start - XTC vs Adam Ant - Cant Keep Johnny Down - Celebration - Birdhouse in Your Soul - Clap Your Hands - Withered Hope - Battle for the Planet of the Apes - Cloisonné - Crazy Train - Spoiler Alert - Free Ride - Alphabet of Nations - You Probably Get That A Lot - Los Angeles - Fingertips - Judy Is Your Viet Nam - Old Pine Box - Ana Ng - The Guitar. Encore - Careful What You Pack - Band Intros - Istanbul. Encore 2 - Lie Still, Little Bottle - Particle Man

Flans started the show by welcoming back Dan. He was calling him all sorts of silly things, the only one of which I specifically recall was "delicious.". But it was really great to see that the band was so obviously just as excited about having Dan back as I was. I always appreciate and admire the camaraderie that is evident between the members of the band while they are on stage, but never more so than here, when they were we so clearly enjoying being a complete unit again. They were laughing and joking together more than usual. Flans kept calling attention to Dan's presence.  Dan and Marty were miming things at each other across the stage, and Dan and Danny, well, you'll see. 

I came to the conclusion after this week that TMBG without Dan is like a Michelangelo painting where the artist was forbidden to use red. It's still a nice painting because it's a Michelangelo. But it's not everything it could be had the artist been allowed a full pallet. Dan's playing adds a dimension to the music that can't be replicated, whether he's playing subtle rhythm guitar or a blazing solo. And you never realize how used to his backing vocals you are until they aren't there. Sometimes, when I wax lyrical about the band, I think I take Dan a bit for granted. But what's that they say about absence making the heart grow fonder? 

When Will You Die with the full band name check was a perfect way to start this show. But my favorite moment of the whole show and possibly the whole tour came during We Live In A Dump. You may recall that Danny had been filling in on the backing vocals in Dan's absence. And I was very curious to see if he'd just go back to his old habit of singing along with no mic in the background upon Dan's return. What I wasn't excepting was the first chorus of the song to come along and both guys to step up to the mic to sing. They stood side by side both singing "ba ba ba baaaa ba," looking for all the world like Paul McCartney and George Harrison huddled around the same mic. And Danny was balanced on tip toes craning his head up to sing into Dan's too tall microphone. It was, no joke, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in the 90+ shows I've attended. 

And as if once wasn't enough they reprised it during Celebration, in even sillier fashion. As the song began, Dan deliberately tilted his mic down so Danny could reach it and then as the chorus began, nodded at Danny to join him at the mic. Which he did, only to have Dan fake him out by stepping back away from the mic just as Danny started to sing, leaving him going "ooo ooo ooo" alone while looking over his shoulder at Dan and nearly cracking up while he sang. Dan meanwhile just grinned and looked ridiculously pleased with the joke he had played. Danny stepped back to allow Dan a solo turn on the second chorus and then they took a turn together on the last one. I'm telling you, it was a beautiful, beautiful sight.

TMBG 9/29/11 #2

I was surprised they included XTC vs Adam Ant here. I fully expected them to save it until Boston. I seem to recall I even lost a bet over it. But it was a very nice surprise. I do miss some of the production from the recording when they play this song live, but it is a wonderful showcase for some of Dan's superb guitar playing which I was appreciating more than ever.

Flansburgh instituted another audience dance contest before Celebration. I can't remember if the prize was the signed Join Us record or the giant poster, but Flans appointed Marty as the judge and told the crowd that Marty would be watching them while he played. I can't imagine how he managed this while playing but then again, I suspect Marty may have super powers even greater than spotting crazy dancers in a crowd while keeping a beat. The contest lasted several songs, then Flans called Marty down to declare the winner. But instead of handing over the mic, Flans dictated everything Marty said to the audience as if he was translating for someone speaking in a foreign language. Personally, I found it hilarious. Marty does so much silent communication on stage, being mic-less and segregated from everyone else on the drum riser, and this fit right in with that in a way that really tickled me. 

Much of the rest of the show is a blur in my memory but there are a couple of things I remember from the end. There was a point at which Linnell messed up which song was supposed to be next and blamed it on the fact that John Carter, the monitor technician, had not informed him of the next song in his earpiece. He went on to explain that he had gotten used to John Carter feeding him helpful information in his ear, like the next song on the setlist, or to pick-up the accordion, or that fact that his fly was down. Flansburgh then complained that John Carter never told him that his fly was down and Linnell said that was because it wasn't. And Flans made some sort of reply along the lines of "That's right John, it isn't," the tone and delivery of which had me in stitches. And in hindsight, the entire exchange became even funnier the following night, when Dan came back on stage for the encore, clearly in need of that in ear memo from John Carter if you know what I mean ;-)

When they did the band intros, making their weird noises, Dan picked up a different guitar from the one he was currently wearing and held it by its neck, making some sort of sound with it by moving his hand on the frets while manipulating a pedal with his foot. It added wonderfully to the cacophony.

TMBG 9/29/11 #25

The only other thing I remember about the show itself, was one of my other favorite moments of the whole night. When they came back for the first encore, Flansburgh proudly announced to Dan that he had learned how to play Dan's part on Careful What You Pack while he was gone. Dan indicated that Flans should continue to play it so that he could hear it. Flans said no, that he didn't want to step on Dan's toes. In the end they agreed to play it together. So the two of them stood side by side and, in unison, played the introduction to Careful What You Pack, with Flansburgh obviously concentrating hard on getting it perfect for Dan, and Dan glancing over at him with a smile. It was beautiful and perfect.

After the show, Gary and I were walking down the street next to the venue, back to the parking garage, when we suddenly heard someone yelling "Hey! Are you gonna be at the show tomorrow too?" I turned around, startled, to see JoCo's bass player, Brandon, hollering at us from the back of their van down the street., where he was loading up his gear. I yelled back that yes, we would be there tomorrow and he said "See you there!" or something along those lines. It was highly entertaining. 

So there you have it folks. That's the best recap I can produce a year and a few months late. Sorry so much of it has gotten lost in my brain. My goal is to eventually get back to all the shows I missed, though some of them will be very short, as my memory is minimal on some of the spring shows. But the next three  shows after this one, I have recordings of, and the two after that I took notes on, so I should be able to produce some pretty decent recaps of at least some of the shows. The trick will be finding the time. If you all will stick with me, I'll give it my best shot. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks again for doing can't even begin to believe how much I love these concert recaps. Since TMBG never a) perform anywhere near me and b) accept peanuts at a show, which is pretty much what I get paid, this is as close as I can get to living the experience. I hope you enjoy the upcoming tour, as well. So excited for that as well as the new album coming hopefully soon. :)