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TV On The Radio
With Celebration and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
July 29, 2007
McCarren Pool

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

(Opposite photo of TV's Tunde Adebimpe)


Rain has an interesting effect on live shows. With bad music playing it can reinforce every negative aspect of the experience, heighten criticism and leave an audience not only bored but also cold and slightly miserable. In the presence of good music it can amplify every emotion springing from the stage whether it be sorrow, melancholy, triumph or simply balls-out energy. Thus it was with a wary eye that I watched the darkening sky the morning of TV on the Radio’s hometown show at the McCarren Park pool. An hour and a half before doors, sure enough the sky opened up and down came the rain, and though the downpour showed no signs of letting up, fans refused to be washed out. The mood was instantly playful as the crowds came in with the start of an impromptu whiffle ball game, a dodgeball tournament that seemed to draw added intensity from the weather and yes, even the return of the ever-present line for the water slide. By the time the music started the umbrellas were still out but the spirits of all those present remained undaunted.

First to take the stage was Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson who, with backing band, provided a decent enough set of electric folk rock. His musicianship was solid and his songwriting showed promise, though vocally he was limited to a Bruce Springsteen-esque mumble that even the Boss has trouble pulling off successfully these days. His songs had enough kick that his set didn’t succumb to the dreariness of the weather but especially under the cover of clouds and a blanket of water he needed a more defined style a more confident, tight delivery to be truly memorable.

The downfall began to let up as Celebration took the stage. The heavy, atmospheric, buzzing indie-rock played well off of the day both during the dreary, grey moments and when, miracle of miracles, out came the sun to dry up all the rain. The band resembles the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their most reflective with a bit less fuzz and a bit more willingness to experiment with odd timings. Boosted by a wild performance from lead singer Katrina Ford and turns at guest vocals on two songs from TV on the Radio members Kyp Malone and Jaleel Bunton, Celebration successfully warmed and energized the now sizable crowd. Their huge sound made for an inviting and intriguing second course, whetting the appetite for the afternoon’s headliners.

Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio

All traces of storms vanished from the sky and the pool filled to capacity by the time Brooklyn’s own TV on the Radio took the stage. Right off the bat, from the first notes of set-opener “Province”, the band’s gritty, raw, high-intensity sound gripped all those in attendance and didn’t let go until long after the final song had been played. No other group even approaches the style these five create and every song they play is simultaneously earthy and grounded yet completely explosive. Hit single “A Wolf Like Me” – with backing vocals from Ford – predictably lit the place up but the true high point of the show was an epic and anthemic rendition of “Dreams”. It began slowly with a simple drum beat, building momentum, pulling back, and building again until finally waves of urgency, recklessness and frantic longing crashed out from the stage cresting over the sea of fans screaming every word back at the stage.

Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio excels at crafting moving, unifying, grandiose songs completely devoid of anything ostentatious or over the top. Every element of their music feels relevant and vital not only to the musicians but to each listener as well. This universality – even more than excellent songwriting, a unique sound and flawless execution – is what sets this band apart and what makes their live show so compelling. These five manage to bring together countless individuals and become the common thread which stitches them all together and in the end that is what great art is all about.

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