In the Venue
with Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Most people go through their lives entirely within their own comfort zones. They do the same things every day, talk to the same people, go to the same places, and listen to the same music. A life without variation may be a safe and even comfortable life, but it is also almost always an unrewarding and unstimulating life. By challenging our perceptions not only of ourselves but also of the world around us, we often find that we are capable of doing, understanding and appreciating much more than what we expect of ourselves. Now, what did all that sentimental, pretentious kind of drivel have to do with this show? Well, I usually go to punk rock shows. As such, I am used to being surrounded by stinky, angry, often stupid and often violent people at shows, so this show was kind of an anomaly for me. Also, the artists performing at this show are not necessarily easy to get into, but both Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and TV on the Radio create music that is challenging but ultimately fulfilling.
photo courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan
Well, maybe Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson’s brand of fuzzy, folksy indie rock may not be challenging to some people, but when you’re used to bands screaming about how much their dad sucks over really fast drums and buzzing guitars like I am, fuzzy, folksy indie rock is a bit challenging. Backed by a four-person band dubbed The Family Robinson, Miles’ unique vocal delivery was definitely one of the most striking parts of the set. Matched by his between-song banter, Robinson’s vocals seemed somewhat self-conscious and restrained, but those qualities are ultimately made the vocals interesting. The songs ranged from anthemic tunes that saw the whole band rocking out to a song featuring only Robinson accompanied by his guitar. It was an odd mix of intimate, coffee-shop style songs and huge songs that wouldn’t be out of place inside stadiums. Robinson and his band were noticeably fatigued from life on the road (this was their last night on the tour), but they still managed to deliver a fine performance and managed to get the crowd ready for a completely different sounding band in TV on the Radio.
TV on the Radio is closer to my preferred genres of music, but they’re still a long way off from the overly angsty, overly angry fare I’m used to listening to. Actually, they’re a long way off from pretty much anything anyone listens to. Their ability to combine disparate sounds into a coherent and often creepy style all their own is not only an admirable achievement, but it is also some of the most captivating music that’s been created in quite some time. What makes TV on the Radio’s music so interesting is largely the production, so I was interested to see how their live performance would measure up to their recorded output. The shear amount of musical equipment on the stage did a lot to assuage my fears, though I still didn’t know what to expect when the band finally emerged.
The band opened up with “Young Liars,” which deviated a bit from the recorded version to better fit the live setting, as guitarist David Andrew Sitek strummed away furiously to recreate the dark drone prevalent in the song. The energy presented not only by Sitek but by every member of the band, most notably vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, was infectious, and the crowd was immediately drawn into the set. Further adapting to the live setting, Sitek and the group’s other guitarist, Kyp Malone, barely played a single note during “I was a Lover,” relying instead on feedback to create the mood over drummer Jaleel Bunton’s hip-hop-esque beat. Predictably, the band and the crowd’s energy was at it’s highest during TVOTR’s biggest hit, “Wolf Like Me,” which saw the band members jumping all over the stage, flailing wildly as the crowd followed suit. Songs from TVOTR’s forthcoming album Dear Science didn’t get as much of a response as the band’s earlier tunes, but I for one was excited to hear the band infuse a little bit of funk into their deep and heavy sound on “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose.” The encore saw each member of the band, minus Bunton, abandon their standard instruments in lieu of percussion instruments for an incredible version of “Method.” As Bunton beat out the rhythm, Malone and Adebimpe built on it with cymbals and drumsticks as Sitek poured a bottle water on a tom drum, only to pound on it as the song entered its middle water flying all over the stage.
TV on the Radio’s performance was nothing short of incredible. Their ability to adapt a style of music that is largely dependent on in-studio production to a live performance setting is further evidence of their greatness. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous to attend a show outside of my own personal comfort zone, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve missed one hell of a show from two great bands.