They Might Be Giants
American Museum of Natural History
Sunday, October 4
The best thing about TMBG’s second career as top-shelf purveyors of children’s music is how little their onstage demeanor has changed — they favor a sardonic, half-asleep, deadpan manner whether most of the folks in the front row are 3 years old or 30. Today (2 p.m.! And the first show was at 11 a.m.!) that means lotsa jokes about the enormous whale suspended over our heads, in what the Johns Flansburgh and Linnell eventually correctly identify as the Hall of Ocean Life. Whale jokes are big today. And confetti. And balloon animals. And bright yellow foam hands. And songs called “Clap Your Hands,” “Where Do They Make Balloons?”, “Pirate Girls Nine,” and “Bed Bed Bed.” (“Bed Bed Bed” is particularly awesome.) And bumper stickers, though Flansburgh warns us not to stick them on our faces. There was probably an incident at an earlier show. Might’ve been a 3-year-old. Might’ve just as easily been a 30-year-old.
The genius of the adults-to-kids switch here is that it wasn’t really a switch at all — classic TMBG hits (“Particle Man,” deep cut “The Famous Polka”) slide in easily amid new tunes (about evolution, shooting stars, the periodic table, etc.) from their fourth children’s album, Here Comes Science; “Why Does the Sun Shine?” is technically both. Only once does anyone onstage ham it up appreciably: Drummer Marty Beller takes the lead for “Alphabet Lost and Found,” bounding across the stage and flailing his limbs wildly as his bandmates crack up in the background. The foam-fingered youngins are transfixed, but they were already. More telling to me are the two shaggy-haired teenagers in front of me, equally fascinated and giggling maniacally at every joke and freaking out when the band breaks into “Dr. Worm.” That was me 15 ($%^!!) years ago, and will, with any luck, be some of these kids 15 years hence.