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Setlist: (Incomplete!)

They Might Be Giants
— with Life In A Blender, Second Step, Amjam opening —
CBGB in New York, NY
February 7, 1987 at 11:30 PM

Fan Recaps and Comments:

Tickets were $7. Written up in the February 28, 1987 issue of Cashbox:[1]

CBGB, NYC — The first time I saw They Might Be Giants was a couple of years ago at an east Village dive called Neither/Nor, and my initial impression was that they were so talented they would probably never work again. Fortunately, I was wrong on the second count and right on the first; sheer talent has brought them a large enthusiastic cult following that may soon put them on the charts.

Guitarist John Flansburgh was amazed at the turn-out. “We’ve been around for four years and this (he points to the front row) is usually our whole audience.” But the crowd for this show (2/7) was packed far beyond the front tables and down along the aisle along the bar, to the pool tables in back where people stood on benches to catch a glimpse.

Coming off a southern tour, this was They Might Be Giants’ homecoming gig and the lower east side treated them like favorite sons. The Giants returned the favor by turning in a song-packed, tuned-up performance that showed real development over their earlier, more flamboyant shows. Gone were the over-size cue cards and puppet props that they used in early gigs to capture the attention of indifferent audiences who really didn’t have a clue. Instead, they did a tight and loose set of great songs - songs within songs, genres within genres, songs without genres, and all of it spiced by endearingly eccentric stage patter that urged us to scream on cue and ‘wave our purple toupees.’

“We’re keeping southern rock alive at CBGB’s,” quipped Flansburgh, the main quipper of the evening. “We’ve just come off a southern rock tour and everybody shouted for ‘Whipping Post.’ So here’s ‘Whipping Post, in parentheses, (She’s An Angel),” he said introducing “She’s An Angel,” a song that is about as far from the Allmans as imaginable.

Their sound is often quite close to the Kinks, which is partly due to John Linnell’s voice and partly due to the structure of some of their songs. But the Giants take from a wide variety of sources. Their self- titled debut album on Bar/None Records is the “Pure Pop For Now People” of the ‘80’s, every bit as packed with the witty, deceptively accessible multi-genre irony that made that album such a landmark. This is Nick Lowe if he had lived in the east Village, or Ray Davies if he had discovered tape loops twenty years ago, or Elvis Costello with a happy sex life, or Laurie Anderson gone CHR.

In short, they’re like no one else, and eclecticism helps keep them that way. One of their best songs, “Hide Away Folk Family,” started off like the theme to a spaghetti western, and gradually came to an impossibly fragile melodic peak before dissolving into the chaos just beneath the surface of most of their songs. “Youth Culture Killed My Dog” was a blast of updated ‘60's British-invasion pop that could pass for an “Argy Bargy” outtake, while “The World’s Address” bordered on jazz cacophony. All of it though was done with a wit, intelligence, and sense of play that is sure to make these guys real musical giants - no might about it.

— Paul Iorio