Photos by Hana Tobias
Ahh, San Diego, how I love you. The overcast skies, the rain drizzling steadily… hm, that doesn’t sound right. Unfortunately for alternative rock band They Might Be Giants (and their gear), the quintessential San Diego sun was nowhere to be seen for the first performance of their two-and-a-half week sold-out west coast run.
On April 12, They Might Be Giants played the first of two shows at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay (an outdoor venue, hence the rain). This concert was a new addition to the tour that had originally been scheduled for way back in October 2020. Active since 1982, the band consists of founders John Flansburgh and John Linnell, alongside backing members Dan Miller, Danny Weinkauf, and Marty Beller. On tour, they’re joined by a brass trio of Dan Levine, Mark Pender, and Stan Harrison. They’ve released 23 albums, their most recent titled BOOK, which was nominated for a Grammy (which Flansburgh mentioned, joking, “I don’t want to say how it turned out”).
Flansburgh and Linnell performing at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay.
The show was split into two acts, with an intermission in between. My immediate impression was that they’re extremely funny, their deadpan humor entertaining the crowd during the breaks between songs. That humor permeates through their music as well: Linnell has a bit where he interrupts “Why Does the Sun Shine” to do an impression of Neil Sedaka litigating the sun, and their song “Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” borrows the tune of its namesake, swapping the original words for lyrics like, “hush my darling, be still my darling, the lion’s on the phone”. They also played “Stilloob”, which is their song “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” played backwards, recording it and playing the video in reverse to open the second half (impressively, it did sound fairly similar to the real song).
Not everything ran smoothly on Wednesday; there were several moments when the Flansburgh’s and Linnell’s voices were buried in the mix, and they consistently had issues with their in-ear monitors. The second half of the concert was admittedly a bit less energetic due to the unrelenting drizzle, with the energy of both the crowd and the band leaning slightly more toward “let’s get through this” rather than “let’s revel in and enjoy this” (although, in a pleasantly surprising move, the band did return to the stage for an encore). But the faults of the evening were certainly not enough to dull my enjoyment of an entertaining and impressive performance. At one point, Flansburgh joked that “the best thing about this band is that it doesn’t matter that much”. Light self-deprecation aside, the sentiment was clear: the circumstances don’t really matter – just enjoy the ride.