Music

Live: Tom Tom Club Do Their Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Thing At Irving Plaza

by

Tom Tom Club/Matthew Dear
Irving Plaza
Wednesday, January 12

Better than: A Heads reunion.

Tina Weymouth: “A lot of you are too young to know this show, but it feels like Romper Room. “Chris Frantz: “This song is about all the cute little girls down at CBGBs.” Hey, you show up for a 30th-anniversary celebration, you deal with a little nostalgia.

Yes, Tom Tom Club’s self-titled debut, the one with “Genius of Love” on it, was born in 1981, and their whimsical pop-funk remains somehow both of and ahead of its time — like P-Funk for children, which is only an insult when you actually start paying attention to the words to “The Man With the 4-Way Hips.” (Don’t do that.) Nowadays they’re the sort of band contractually obligated to have a guitar player named Fuzz (nice hat), an entirely superfluous scratcher named DJ Ginseng, a singer/dancer/toaster named Mystic Bowie. They bound onstage and launch into the relentlessly cheerful post-punk of “Suboceana” (“We are the future/From out of your past/We’ll be here tomorrow”), the band a tornado of bouncing, smiling, giggling, and light sleepover choreography. Weymouth’s piercing, rubbery bass is the focal point, of course; she and fellow blond/backup singer Victoria Clamp are dressed in matching sparkly dresses, doubling their cooing sing-song vocals to the mesmerizing effect that made “Genius of Love” make these people insanely rich.

At absolute worst their other songs are merely endearing: the cowbell-abetted strut of “Punk Lolita” (that’s the CBGB one), the ska bounce of “She’s Dangerous,” a sweet cover of “Under the Boardwalk” DJ Ginseng tries and fails to ruin. “Genius of Love” is as you remember it, infectious and innocuous; the crowd is equally jazzed though for “Wordy Rappinghood,” a tongue-twisting fount of high-pitched nonsense. A real Pee-Wee’s Playhouse vibe to it all. For your encore, Weymouth and Franz nod to their Talking Heads past with “Take Me to the River” and “Psycho Killer,” Mystic Bowie moaning the former and Weymouth most of the latter, the nostalgia palpable but not as overwhelming as you’d expect; the giddiness, more so.

Matthew Dear opened up for some reason: a stupendously handsome man sternly shaking his maracas, his robotic full-band electro-funk augmented by muted trumpet and vocals with a hard, metallic edge, as though he’s yelling at us over Skype. It would be pretty ridiculous if he wasn’t willing to take it so seriously: “You Put a Smell on Me” has a borderline-pornographic menace, Dear imploring “little red nightgown little red nightgown little red nightgown” over and over. Doubtless that song will soon soundtrack a particularly unpleasant Skins sex scene.

Critical Bias: Seen David Byrne now a bunch of times

Overheard: “Bring out David Byrne!”

Random Notebook Dump: The two well-dressed dudes slow-dancing through “L’Elephant” were very sweet.

Set List
Suboceana
She’s Dangerous
Punk Lolita
L’Elephant
Who Feelin It
Under the Boardwalk
The Man With the 4-Way Hips
Time to Bounce
Genius of Love
You Sexy Thing
Wordy Rappinghood

(encore)
Take Me to the River
Psycho Killer