TV on the Radio's Joyful, Urgent SXSW Show

Photograph by Alex Reside for RollingStone.com
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Around 12:45 on March 18th, TV on the Radio's members stood dramatically backlit on the smoke-filled stage of Stubb's Bar-B-Q. It felt like a pivotal moment for the Brooklyn band: Not counting a private event earlier in the week at SXSW, they were about to play their first full performance in support of hiatus-ending album Nine Types of Light (due April 12th).

After a minute or two of atmospheric guitar noodling at the top of the set, lead singer Tunde Adebimpe let out a wordless falsetto moan -- the opening notes to "Young Liars," from their 2003 EP of the same name. It's one of the band's earliest songs and still one of its best. But TV on the Radio have grown even more compelling as live performers in the eight years since then, as they resoundingly demonstrated with the joyful, urgent hour-long set that followed.

While ailing bassist Gerard Smith was missed on stage, his bandmates were in top form. Guest drummer Jahphet Landis and trombonist Dave Smith joined Adebimpe, singer-guitarist Kyp Malone, producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek and multi-instrumentalist Jaleel Bunton on stage. Adebimpe in particular shone, singing in wonderfully world-weary tones as he dashed around the stage and exhorted audience members to clap along with three-cups-of-coffee numbers like "Dancing Choose," "Staring at the Sun," and an exquisitely unhinged "Wolf Like Me." 

Time-tested tunes like those formed the set's backbone, with a few newer additions along the way. Nine Types of Light album cut "Repetition," a wordy squall of piquant emotion, was a definite highlight. Current single "Will Do" felt ever so slightly shakier, but the band has plenty of time to work out any kinks in its arrangement on their upcoming tour. It's something for fans to look forward to as Nine Types of Light takes its rightful place in TV on the Radio's unique catalog.