TV On The Radio
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TV On The Radio are one of those rare breeds of bands that have managed to perfect an oft overlooked art - that of leaving people wanting more. Having only played one UK date since the release of Dear Science and given just a smattering of interviews, they’ve been able to sustain an aura of mystery about them that most bands of their stature would have long since dispatched with in favour of countless column inches and endless photo-shoots. It seems fitting, therefore, that they chose to play at Manchester’s rather cosy Academy 2, rather than Academy 1’s adjacent aircraft hanger.
The choice of venue pays off. Within a few seconds of opener 'Young Liars', storms of guitars sweep over the packed crowd, inducing the kind of euphoric response only recently seen at Barack Obama rallies. Evidently buoyed by the reception, Tunde Adebimpe shuffles, stomps and whoops his way towards the song's crescendo, flashing occasional grins at Kyp Malone who stands as the steady anchor countering Adebimpe’s extroverted performance, nonchalantly knocking out incendiary guitar lines that make their recorded counterparts sound positively tame.
By the time the mid-set, stripped back groove of 'Golden Age' has finally chugged to a sweat-soaked close, it's strikingly apparent that despite TVOTR’s clear experimental tendencies, they still remain, above all else, a rock band. Of course, they’re undoubtedly a step up from most contemporary bands on pop’s evolutionary ladder, but as tonight’s show confirms TVOTR’s primary aim is to rock, hard.
Barely pausing to breathe they blaze through the majority of Dear Science; the crashing drums and fizzing white noise of 'Shout Me Out' soon falls victim to the ferocious bass driven howl of 'Dancing Choose', with Dave Sitek strumming his guitar like a man possessed. Only after the Prince-esque funk of 'Red Dress' had subsided do they let up for any significant amount of time, allowing Adebimpe to take the opportunity to apologise "for being so rubbish last time we played here", a claim that if repeated here in a couple of years time could well redefine the parameters of modesty forever.
It’s testament to TVOTR’s talent therefore that perhaps the only real weakness of tonight’s show is the visibly marked contrast in songwriting flair displayed when their earlier songs are performed alongside their latest material. The run through of 2003’s 'Satellite' immediately after Dear Science’s 'DLZ' demonstrates this well. Where the fuzz drenched drone of 'Satellite' is nothing less than a pop gem when played in isolation, it cannot fail to sound rather overshadowed when preceded by a song as masterfully constructed and genuinely original as 'DLZ'. However, this is a minor detraction, and the airing of 'Staring At The Sun' at the close of the encore manages to hold its own despite Adebimpe’s pirouetting wail sitting frustratingly low in the EQ mix.
So, whilst TVOTR don’t quite scale the heights of musical nirvana tonight, they come pretty close with their set of surely-soon-to-be-regarded 21st century alternative rock classics being eagerly lapped up by the discerning crowd. Still, having only graced the stage for an hour, cries for more were predictably heard, and yes, predictably ignored. TVOTR remain as elusive as ever.
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