Before I start, I have a confession to make: TV On The Radio are my favorite band. I don’t think they are the world’s best band, nor did they have the most influence on my life or my tastes, but when it came time to choose the song I would walk down the aisle to, it was “Staring at the Sun” by TV On The Radio. And when I reflect on some of my fondest live music memories, those moments star TV On The Radio. To say I was nervous about this show living up to those memories would be an understatement.
So, it was with much relief that when the lights dimmed in the Crystal Ballroom and TV On The Radio took the stage to an incredible rendition of “Young Liars,” it was just like I remembered—if not better. The sound last night was impeccable—the vocals clear as they volleyed back and forth between Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone while the soundscapes from Dave Sitek’s keyboard were as irrefutable as ever, but it was the bass that was the star of the show. Oh, the bass!
From the opening moment of “Young Liars” through the encore, the bass was unwieldy, providing bone-rattling punctuation throughout the night. While the bass was easily the star of the show and renditions of “Golden Age” and “Wolf Like Me” served as reminders of why TV On The Radio are my favorite band, it was how the new tracks from 2014’s Seeds played that would be the night’s biggest surprise.
I have to admit that when Seeds came out in mid-November, I was a bit underwhelmed. I had high expectations for this record, hoping it would sky rocket into album of the year contention. Instead, I played it a couple of times and then it fell off my iPhone library and into the abyss of my iTunes library, rarely to be played again.
This perception has altered dramatically thanks to last night’s show. Starting with the title track “Seeds,” TV On The Radio injected raw emotion into every one of the songs from the new album, but it was “Lazerray” that blew me away the most. A punk song through and through, “Lazerray” got the whole crowd head banging and is a testament to TV On The Radio’s ability to drift in and out of genres while always heading in the direction of their own true north.
The night also included a few overtly political moments, including a statement on the recent protests in the wake of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner murders (comment: I know the officers involved with these crimes were not indicted, but let’s call a fig, a fig) by Kyp Malone that concluded on a note of optimism: “I’m excited to see what we, as a society, are going to do about it [cops killing black people].”
The second moment came after the call for an encore, which notably was one of the, if not the, loudest encore calls I have ever heard at the Crystal Ballroom—and I have heard some loud calls at the Crystal.
Taking a moment to address the crowd, Adebimpe removed his glasses and asked everyone to leave their phones in their pocket for just the next song, explaining (note: to abide his request, I left my phone in my pocket so I was not able to notate a direct quote, but to paraphrase): “All day we are hooked into this shit. These tiny glaring screens, just beaming shit into our brains. Scroll, shit, scroll, shit.” To combat this, Adebimpe asked us to look into the eye of the person next to you and say, “Light!” The crowd abided his request and, with each repetition, grew louder and louder and louder before finally breaking into “Forgotten.”
Following “Forgotten,” the bass level was taken up from an eight to a 10 for the final two songs (“DLZ” and “Staring at the Sun”), providing the perfect exclamation point on the night!
(Final note: At one point during the show, a person in front of me opened an app to measure the decibels coming out of the sound system and it was 94—and that was way before the bass fireworks started, so I can only imagine what the decibels were during the last two songs, but it was awesome.)