If there is one thing to say about They Might Be Giants, the band formed by John Flansburgh and John Linnell, it would be that the devotion and admiration of their fans is undeniable, a driving force for the jaunty energy of their live shows. Originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed due to the global pandemic, the return of They Might Be Giants to Cincinnati was a much anticipated event, as proved by the sold out crowd at Madison Theater on Saturday night. The line to get into the venue was full of true fans, unable to hide their excitement as they discussed the 30-year, now 33-year anniversary celebration of the band’s platinum album Flood about to take place. Fans could be spotted in shirts from many of the different albums and tours They Might Be Giants have embarked on in their decades as a band. Upon entering the venue, concertgoers were handed a bright pink and yellow “THEY” paper crown to wear; ultimately, there were more bobbing crowns than not in the audience as They Might Be Giants took the stage.
With no opening bands, the evening was separated into two full sets with a 20-minute intermission in between. This led to a setlist of over 30 songs, featuring a mix of Flood tracks, newer songs like ‘Brontosaurus,’ and various tracks in between, such as their cover of ‘Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas).’ Almost immediately in his opening dialogue, John Flansburgh admitted everyone in They Might Be Giants have lost their minds from the three weeks of touring, something you would not have been able to discern from the incredible feat of musicianship that occurred throughout the next two and a half hours. There were hardly any projections or background videos, meaning there were no distractions from the performance taking place. Joined by a handful of musicians (the horn section jokingly referred to as the horn brothers all evening), They Might Be Giants gave a performance that effortlessly showed the reason the band has had such a long-lasting legacy, as entire families ranging in youth and age danced, sang along to every word, and laughed at every joke.
Never known to shy away from experimentation or conform to conventions, They Might Be Giants confounded the audience with their perfectly polished backwards rendition of ‘Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love,’ retitled to ‘Stilloob,’ in the first set. During their synopsis of the idea, John Linnell noted how the Covington audience were the first audience to not question the idea and seem completely accepting, ready to hear the experiment. The performance of ‘Stilloob’ was as ambitious and awesome as it was witty and wacky. The performance was filmed, with the video playing in reverse at the beginning of the second set, transforming the song back into ‘Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love.’ Slightly confused and surely confounded, this performance was one of many highlights of the evening.
Though They Might Be Giants joked that they went “What?” when told they were coming to Covington, they quickly backpedaled, referencing past performances at Bogart’s, their own Roebling Suspension Bridges in New York, and how grateful and impressed they were with the audience. When fans yelled out to them, they laughed, admitting they had no idea what was being said, but were definitely reading everyone’s minds. Multiple times, the house lights were raised for John Linnell to take a photo of the crowd with his 3D photo camera, just to joke “there’s no film in here!” This sort of odd-ball humor kept the crowd completely engaged throughout the entire evening.
As if the two full sets weren’t already satisfying, They Might Be Giants treated their sold-out crowd to not one, but two encores. This, too, after admitting it was past their bedtime before performing the last couple songs of their second set. From horn solos that lasted minutes to the jubilant dynamic of the John’s and the non-stop dance party of the crowd, They Might Be Giants showed all of Madison Theater their heart and souls.