TV On The Radio
CelebrationEdit this event
- ULU, Camden Town »
What should the uninitiated expect from a TV On The Radio set? Your scribe, untouched by the TVOTR live experience, arrived with mixed expectations: a fevered party-time celebration? A self-consciously clever patchwork of sounds? The biggest surprise, given their intensely well-regarded stock of material and general reputation for being one of the best and most forward-thinking bands around, is how laid-back tonight's packed ULU excursion is.
The party kicks off in slo-mo, spreading like a lazy, slow-growing grin. Arriving on UK shores ahead of their new record, Return To Cookie Mountain, TVOTR take the opportunity to showcase songs from it, but wind its disorientating, textural intensity down to a syncopated, welcoming vibe. Those who've heard the new opus, with its baffling, infectious but thoughtful array of sonic and atmospheric contradictions, might have expected a searing, exhilarating rush of a show. Cling to those expectations, and tonight is, on one level, disappointing. Chill the fuck out, and it's a good time for all; less a party than a warm gathering.
Tunde Adebimpe's organic bombast is tempered by guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone's obeliskal approach to his trade; while Adebimpe hops and jitters, elbows and wrists akimbo, every vocal phrase accentuated by agitated gestures, Malone is a rock, effortless and expert in his output. The only real disappointment of the evening is 'Let The Devil In' - it's a highlight of the new record, a slow, warped clatter of snare and TVOTR's trademark evangelical chorus-line vocals, crucially underpinned by a compelling reggae bassline, but tonight the bass is inaudible, masked by splattering drums, and the song loses its focus. Yet it's hard not to feel that if the atmosphere here was as relaxed as TVOTR are trying to encourage, it wouldn't matter; in a crowdful of ducking, weaving bodies, the heavy, organic bass notes would materialise and home in on each and every one of us.
Lingering expectations might account for the mood of tonight's crowd; one gets a sense of widespread fandom and appreciation, yet despite entreaties from the band, the people assembled here tonight are static, unsure of how to respond. Cuts from the new record lope along at a loose, open pace, shruggingly benevolent rather than incendiary or pensive as they are on record, and 'Young Liars' is the only song that sounds as virgin viewers might expect - it's righteous and revelatory, a hollering can-uh-git-an-a-MEN-style shout of glory, Adebimpe's earthy shout flooding the room with shamanic belief.
Perhaps one should take this show as a lesson about the hazards of specific expectations; when faced with a band as quixotic and confident as TVOTR, it doesn't pay to anticipate anything. Tonight shows that TVOTR are a band with nothing to prove. Not for them the contrivances of replicating a record in a live setting, or painstakingly reworking their sound; for all the work that may have gone into the design of these songs, tonight's show, for both artists and spectators, is about kicking back and enjoying them.
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