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TV on the Radio at First Avenue, 8/30/11

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TV on the Radio August 30, 2011 First Avenue, Minneapolis

This show could have gone differently. It could have been a mournful, depressing set and few people inside First Avenue on Tuesday would have faulted TV On The Radio for it. This was a show that had been rescheduled from when TVOTR canceled their tour temporarily this past April, following the passing of multi-instrumentalist Gerard Smith. But TVOTR was in no mood to mourn at all.

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Opening with "Halfway Home" from 2008's Dear Science, the stage bathed in red light, the band got off to a rousing start running through a few songs from both Dear Science and 2006's Return To Cookie Mountain with one or two from their new Nine Types of Light. This highlighted what the possible draw of TVOTR might be. There is no question they qualify as art rock--what with singer Tunde Adebimpe's penchant for "oooh"s in place of proper lyrics and the like--but it's fairly accessible as far as art rock goes, not mainstream by any stretch but certainly enjoyable to a good-sized section of the public. The songs are complicated in structure but catchy at the same time--overall it's quite a feat to have accomplished.

The set was fairly ablaze as guitarist Kyp Malone (who also professed admiration for the Minnesota State Fair) quipped "Now we'd like to begin the Lover's Rock portion of the show," which was dotted with several songs from Light, a record that is undeniably TVOTR but at the same time much sunnier and hopeful than anything they've previously offered. The section was both highlighted by and brought to an end with an absolutely jaw-dropping rendition of "Young Liars"--an early track of theirs--and, really, by the time they offered it up, the set had almost become an entity with an inertia all it's own, like Adebimpe and company weren't really in charge of what would happen next. They cruised through a fairly reworked and slightly less claustrophobic version of "Staring At the Sun," which was maybe the show's weakest point (though not necessarily a weak point, if you follow), if only because the corrosive oppression of the original was so unique and heart-wrenching. They wrapped up the 90-minute main set with a punishing version of "Wolf Like Me" and after a few minutes the encore began -- and the crowd learned the previous hour and a half had only served as an extended warm-up.

Beginning with a somehow noisier version of "I Was A Lover" that inexplicably inspired someone to crowdsurf, TVOTR were at Defcon-4 for the next 20 or so minutes, running through a pitch-perfect version of "Dancing Choose" and a few others before finally leaving the stage, bathed in sweat and truly thankful for what the crowd had given them back for their efforts. TV On The Radio seems to have gotten through the loss of Gerard Smith and come out on the other side of tragedy a stronger unit and it was quite something to witness it all unfold.

Critic's Bias: Following the glut of NYC bands that came after the Strokes, I desperately worried that TVOTR would slip through the cracks. I'm elated that that they didn't. The Crowd: Loud but respectful, also fairly drunk for a Tuesday. Overheard In The Crowd: "My husband is listening to Drive-By Truckers at home right now just to spite my love of this band." Random Notebook Dump: Kyp Malone's love of our State Fair is both awesome and confusing. For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Nick Wosika.

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