“Thank you, London!” yells John Flansburgh, “And thanks even more for not being Leeds!”
They Might Be Giants had a bad gig last night, in Leeds. They Might Be Giants might be giants, but they are happy to see us.
But before they come on, we have the delights of Corn Mo, the support act. A guy comes on, looking like the hairy, balding, 1980s clone of Meatloaf. He is holding an accordian, threateningly. He plugs in his accordian to the PA system with a painful thunk. The drunkards to my right jeer at him. He looks sheepish. He stands up and starts playing his accordian. He sings, in a high voice, something that sounds like an oratorio. He then ups the tempo, sings “It’s Lollipop Time with you!” and it turns out he is a one-man ’80s hair metal band. He is fucking awesome. Occasionally, he stamps hard on the ground, and a kick-drum pedal hits a cymbal. Occasionally, he stamps on the kick-drum pedal and fuck all happens. This may be the funniest thing I have ever seen.
Corn Mo sings a song about how people mistake him for the actor Gary Busey. A character in the song says, “Weren’t you in that film Silver Bullet with Corey Haim?” Corn Mo says “No”.
Corn Mo is my new fucking God. His song about his eighth-grade crush which climaxes with the primal howl “I wanna ball you!” has to be heard to be believed. Click here for his website.
And then… They Might Be Giants. The first time I saw TMBG, they were marooned somewhat carelessly on the Barbican stage after a weird collaboration with the writers of McSweeneys. The second half of the show was a regular, balls-to-the-wall TMBG rock show, and I remember being surprised at how much the weedy, geeky songs on record transmogrified into bona-fide rock monsters on stage – John Flansburgh running around like an overexcitable Dr Fox playing exceptionally bad guitar, and John Linnell… okay, John Linnell was still geeky, but it’s hard not to be geeky when you’re a lead singer behind a keyboard.
This time, TMBG are close. Worryingly close. Flansburgh looms over the crowd, throwing rock shapes. Again, the superb backing band give the songs real live muscle and power pop is eked from songs that are perhaps a little flimsy on record – “Cyclops Rock” particularly benefits from… uh… rock.
The devotion of the TMBG crowd is also eerie. The ambience is not dissimilar to a sixth form gig by local heroes, writ large. Affection levels are high – each stupid chorus, crap keyboard solo, invocation of clapping or stamping of feet, is received in a party mood entirely unlike a Thursday night indie crowd in London. One gets the feeling that Leeds didn’t, like, get it.
The experiments are sublime – the specially-penned song about the Astoria includes the line “In the Astor-i-ay / Where the lit-up sign outside reads ‘GAY’ / Tonight, we have to play a show” – and the big hits go down so well the floor creaks beneath the bouncing to “Birdhouse In Your Soul”. And, what’s more, they still seem to be enjoying themselves. Bless them.