The question going into Friday night’s TV on the Radio tour opener in Portland, OR was how the band would translate the orchestral heights of Dear Science, their upcoming second album for Interscope, to the stage. Earlier records also incorporated strings and horns, but they were chopped and filtered, collage-like and abstract. Much of Dear Science, is built on string-section melodies more coherent and conventionally beautiful than the fuzz-rock ambiance the New York City quintet is known for.
The answer, apparent immediately: with volume. If lead singer Tunde Adebimpe and guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone were the band’s very visible headlights, its overshadowed and over-revved engine were guitarist Dave Sitek and rhythm section Gerard Smith and Jaleel Bunton. Adebimpe — arms circling in a loose-limbed traffic cop dance, singing into one standard mike and a second wired with effects — traded doo-woppish harmonies with Malone; the pair sang scat as often as lyrics. Surrounded by tables of electronics at the back of the stage, Smith alternated between bass and keys while Bunton spilled jazz-rock fills between crashing breaks.
Early on, Sitek’s wiry, treble-funk guitar cut through “Crying,” but the live version of single “Golden Age” replaced the recording’s epic grandeur with blunt force. That aggression suited familiar numbers like the beat-box-and-whistle-looped “Dirty Whirlwind,” “Wolf Like Me” — which incited a mini mosh pit at the front of the stage — and “Young Liars,” during which Sitek pounded his bass with a drumstick.
Perhaps hanging on the new material, the crowd was rapt for the entire 70-minute performance. “Did you guys see Calvin Johnson and M. Ward last night?” Adebimpe asked before “Dreams,” the first encore song. Then he introduced the band — “We are the TV on the Radios” — and they closed with a frantic “Staring at the Sun,” their breakout 2004 single.
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