Alternative band They Might Be Giants played to an enthusiastic but diminutive crowd at San Diego’s 4th and B. Last year the band toured to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of their album, “”Flood.””
The 2001 tour is in reaction to the high turnout they received last year, yet last Sunday’s San Diego show did not sell out despite the band’s recent notoriety as the performers of the theme song to the sitcom “”Malcolm in the Middle.””
The band catered to an audience composed of overwhelmingly die-hard fans by playing a good number of their older and more bizarre songs and B-sides like “”Minimum Wage”” and “”Fingertips”” along with such hits as “”Don’t Let’s Start”” and “”Particle Man.””
The band’s principal members John Linell and John Flansburgh, and their three back-up musicians — all named Dan — still managed to keep the crowd on its toes, introducing five unreleased songs and lapsing into improv segments.
At several points the musicians facetiously emulated free jazz and incorporated the audience into the performance in a command-response relationship.
These moments of spontaneity lent the show to a sense of freshness despite the fact that the audience could sing along with nearly all the material. But all too obvious was evidence of the alleged rivalry between Linell and Flansburgh.
While Flansburgh, the rhythm guitarist, exhibited the jovial attitude that the band is known for in his on-stage banter, Linell stood behind the keyboard and performed with a self-mocking tone.
The two seldom made eye contact, even when they were alone on stage. This didn’t disappoint the crowd, as the band was coaxed out for two encores.
But the conclusion the audience seemed to draw was that after 17 years and multiple permutations, the band might be losing some of its original gusto as it moves into a slightly more commercial sphere.
Fortunately, the focus of this tour is the commemoration of that which set the band apart from the beginning.
While the band is producing material that looks less and less like what made them famous, they’ve proven that they can still rock like they did almost two decades ago. If you’re not familiar with TMBG material, check out their greatest hits album, “”Severe Tire Damage””