TV On The Radio are a getting bigger and better with everything they do and their set at Boston’s Wilbur Theatre was a perfect example. 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain put them on the map in a very big way, earning them bragging rights of Album of the Year at Spin. Their recent follow up, Dear Science, has yet to garner the blogospheric buzz of Cookie Mountain, but it supersedes the previous studio effort in both artistic development, and consistence in overall quality.
Their growth as a studio unit has run parallel to their ever-expanding strength as live performers. On the heels of Cookie Mountains’ Fall ’06 release, they played a sold-out show at Boston’s Paradise Rock Club, a venue that packs in roughly 650 people. Two years later, and a few stops through town on the way, TV On The Radio sold out The Wilbur Theatre, a venue with a capacity of 1,200. But for music fans that could care less about venue capacity, the group demonstrated a significant degree of growth in the synthetic component of their live show. With the production signature of guitarist/studio mastermind David Andrew Sitek, recreating their multi-layered studio works in the live setting has been a never-ending journey of engineering and experimentation, and on this occasion, they seemed to have finally reached their destination.
When they opened up their show with “Halfway Home,” the opening track off of Dear Science, it became clear that Gerard Smith (bass) was no longer playing the same role he had on past tours. This time around, Smith was surrounded by various synthesizers and keyboards with enough room between consoles for him to pick up the bass when the situation arose. Kyp Malone (rhythm guitar/backup vocals) took over a hefty degree of Smith’s bass detail while Sitek took his lead guitar responsibilities to a whole other level. When he wasn’t multi tasking between his six-string and a loop/sample consol, he was speed strumming away on his guitar like a beast of a man, looking to channel his inner fury through the instrument.
However, the most visually intriguing stage persona of the night was exhibited by the Hip Hop/DooWap styling’s of Tunde Adebimpe (lead vocals/effects). As he toggled between two microphones, one for romping around the stage with, the other ran through a hyper-specified apparatus of loop/sample stations, and effects up the wazoo. While working the vocal synth station, he tweaked and manipulated each and every circuit for optimal effect. And when he took the other mic to hand, he worked the stage, engaging and interacting with the crowd with a congenital ease found in any of great front man of the world.
Newer material such as the Cookie Mountain hit, “Wolf Like Me,” and the Dear Science’s first single, “Dancing Choose” were performed with note-for-note precision. Older tunes like “Satellite,” and “Young Liars” seemed to provide the group with more room for interpretation. It seems as though they’ve been playing these songs much longer than anything off of Science, and they’re merely looking to keep the tunes interesting and fresh. And if that’s they’re aim, they nailed it.
Throughout their hour and a half long set that came to a close with an encore of “Starring At The Sun,” TV On The Radio consistently kept every attendee on their feet and drawn into their performance on every level. This is a band that has upped the ante with every tour and album they’ve completed, and performances at The Wilbur Theatre demonstrate that these guys are making their way into the big leagues of both the concert industry, one step at a time