Live Review: TV on the Radio Sow Their Seeds
TV on the Radio
Camden Roundhouse, London (30/08/15)
The first of their two London sets this summer found TV on the Radio at an odd juncture. Their original scheduled run at the Camden Roundhouse earlier in the year was postponed when touring drummer Jahphet Landis was hospitalised and pronounced unable to travel. Having now returned to the road with Landis back on propulsive form, the Brooklyn outfit seemed to grasp their return with equal parts humility, gratitude, and bombast, keen to prove that the additional months their UK fans spent awaiting their return were worth their patience.
This tour is an insight into the group’s creative ideals as they adjust the dials and push down on the accelerator, leaving behind the sharper edges of their early albums as they clutch for the kind of explosive alt-rock that comes with a Stadium-Ready seal. Perhaps as a consequence of reflection and reassessment following the sad death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011, with their new material and live attack, the remaining foursome seem to have their hearts set on the big leagues. Camden Roundhouse is hardly a bedfellow of the O2 Arena, but it’s a clear stepping stone for acts making the push for more widespread connection; a signifier that the Academies and Apollos of years past have grown too small to contain their sound and fanbase.
Indeed, the bulk of their first night’s set consisted of cuts from last year’s Seeds; an album on which the group shed their more intricate tendencies in favour of big hooks, big gestures, and big, open-hearted sentiments. The results are a mixed bag, sounding both mightily impressive (the likes of ‘Ride’ and gentle triumph of ‘Seeds’ scraped the Roundhouse’s rafters with an ease that perhaps wouldn’t be expected of their early recordings) and a little ill-fitting when compared to their more fiery back catalogue. Although the heartfelt conviction of the songs themselves shone through regularly, there was little new in their canon to electrify in the same way as ‘Young Liars’ or ‘Repetition’.
The audience reception reflected such a dichotomy between the old and the new. The evening’s polite reception was revealed for its modesty when the group launched into the snarling chug of 2006’s’Wolf Like Me’; still the band’s calling card after close to ten years of circulation. Mirroring the song’s fixation on a bloody transformation, the crowds were instantly braying as Tunde Adebimpe wailed over his flaming heart and mongrel mind. ‘Dancing Choose’ came closest to rivalling such energy, but otherwise the set was unfortunately marred by muddy sound levels; the treble and higher pitches failing to poke through the fuzzier mesh of heavy bass and Dave Sitek’s ever-humming low-end guitar. It’s a shame, because such issues reduced the impact of songs such as the springy ‘Happy Idiot’, whose guitar solo was completely indiscernible amid the rush.
Thank goodness, then, for Adebimpe, whose phenomenal charisma, enthusiasm and lung-dredging, tongue-twisting prowess elevated the set beyond the sum of its parts. As he bounded and leapt across the stage, shrieking and spitting phrases both sweeping (“everything is gonna be okay!” goes ‘Trouble’) and bizarre (“foam-injected Axl Rose”, anyone?), it was near-impossible to shake one’s gaze. It’s testament to his power and conviction as a performer that in a live setting, many of Seeds‘ broader summations find a more powerful translation. Whether or not TV on the Radio will ever return to their punkier, more openly political roots is anyone’s guess. They certainly have the ambition to fill arenas should they continue on this trajectory, but it certainly risks rendering them a less engaging, edgy prospect for those who still cherish Dear Science as their crowning achievement. For now, with Adebimpe on fine form as their ace in the hole, it’s enough knowing that they have seeds on ground. Let’s see what grows from here.
Young Liars // Lazerray // Golden Age // Happy Idiot // Could You // Careful You // Winter // Wolf Like Me // Seeds // Trouble // Repetition // DLZ // Ride // Dancing Choose // Staring at the Sun
Posted on August 31, 2015, in The Music World and tagged August 2015, Camden Roundhouse, Dave Sitek, Dear Science, Happy Idiot, Live Review, Seeds, Tunde Adebimpe, TV on the Radio, Wolf Like Me, Young Liars. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.