Concert Review: TV on the Radio at Bogart's

For a band with three properly released, critically acclaimed albums, a lot has come to be expected of TV on the Radio. They are on a major label, Interscope, for which they have now released two full-length albums. They recreate their entire discography live, reimagining the layered songscapes they are known for on record into thrilling burners and mid-tempo dread. And they have amassed a following, particularly in the Indie scene, that rivals any of their contemporaries, evidenced by the No. 12 Billboard debut of their new album Dear Science. The crowd truly entered Bogart’s with a sense that this was a band on the verge of truly cracking it REALLY big, which is not necessarily the territory a group of art-rockers naturally inhabits. I guess they just aren’t ready for the big stage yet, at least not in the live setting.—-

After finally making it through the airport security at the door, I stepped into the warehouse that is Bogart’s. I’m not going to get into an anti-Bogart’s rant as many would expect, however I will point out a few of the reasons I believe the crowd did not show up at Bogart’s last night. First, the sound is designed for metal acts, so guitars and drums really outweigh vocals, and the true Cincinnati music scene is smart enough to see this coming when an act like TV on the Radio is booked. Second, the venue itself really wasn’t planned well, with the seating at the top having an obstructed view of the stage and the speakers not having enough room to breathe before smacking the audience with the wall of sound they emit. And last, that airport security was a little outrageous. I mean, if you took one look at the crowd, you knew nothing negative was going to happen.

The crowd was extremely sparse for opener The Dirtbombs, but they put on a rocking show nonetheless. Their stage setup is unique, with two drum sets and their lead singer in the center, accompanied by two bassists at the far ends. With their singer’s vintage Soul howl drowned out by the awful sound levels (thank you, Bogart’s sound crew), The Dirtbombs instrumentation took center stage. Especially impressive was their female bassist at stage right, who slapped and grooved on a bass the size of her body with precision. Also, they certainly know how to open and close a set, as they provided phenomenal bookends.

The energy was palpable for TV on the Radio, the obvious main attraction of the evening. The crowd began to file in just as The Dirtbombs were leaving the stage, and by the time the lights went out, the buzz was at a feverish level to see what TV on the Radio was going to throw the audience’s direction. Expectations were high as the band is riding a wave of well-deserved hype coming off the release of another brilliant album, the aforementioned Dear Science.

Dave Sitek’s droning guitar provided the backdrop for a show dominated by the frontmen. Splitting the job of lead singer, Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe are impressive in their captivation of the audience. Adebimpe’s energy is contagious, and on “Wolf Like Me,” the crowd reciprocated with jumping, gyrating and fist pumping alike. Malone’s falsetto is sleek and sexy, as displayed especially well Saturday night on “Golden Age.”

The new material felt a little too fresh though; the band clearly hasn’t road-tested these songs. “Love Dog” and “Shout Me Out” were two standouts, but the others fell flat, almost as if the band was nervous or confused about how the crowd would react. Not to mention, they didn’t play “Lover’s Day,” arguably the best song on the new album and one that would certainly elicit a rabid response from the crowd with its overt sexual lyricism.

Whizzing through a short, 14 song set mainly culled from their last two equally brilliant albums (the other being 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain), TV on the Radio left a little something to be desired, not for their musicianship, which was spot on, but their canned, albeit brief, set. By no means is it a problem for a band to play their tour set, but on a Saturday night, I expected a little more length and breadth from the now major-label Brooklynites.

Ultimately, there wasn’t much to take away from the show because I didn’t spend enough time with the band to develop any real conclusions. This ambiguity breeds discontent that particularly stings in no small part due to the fact that this band is so brilliant on record. Even the recreations that they are known for felt a little too standard, rather than loose and relaxed as expected. Maybe it was the venue, or maybe it wasn’t their night, but TV on the Radio have a lot of room to grow at this point, and I can only hope their live show will one day live up to the opportunities their albums evoke.

— Dave Tobias

Photos by Keith Klenowski (for more pics, go here)

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