Glorious night of TV on the Radio

By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / June 6, 2009
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It's hard to know, exactly, where to begin when talking about everything TV on the Radio did right at a sold-out House of Blues Thursday night. Or why the Brooklyn quintet's breathless cross-pollination of rock, funk, electro-pop, and soul worked so wonderfully, seamlessly, well.

Was it the band's gritty energy and brash command of groove that hit you not just in the legs and solar-plexus (where it should), but also the head? Was it the outfit's internalized mastery of older sounds wrapped in new sonic threads - the nimble keyboards and Prince-ly falsettos that made "Crying" gallop gleefully as dance music for the indie-rock set?

Could it have been frontman Tunde Adebimpe's old-school soul revue showmanship - his feverish shimmies across the stage, arms twisting toward, and beckoning the audience on "The Wrong Way"? Or, with a jerking thrust of his arm, punctuating a satisfying guitar riff from the epically bearded Kyp Malone on "Wolf Like Me"? Or perhaps it was David Sitek's pedal-pushing electric architecture, coaxing squalls and walls of feedback from his guitar like the Jesus & Mary Chain crashing a P-Funk party on "Halfway Home"?

The fact that drummer Jaleel Bunton, in perpetual motion, and bassist Gerard Smith, who lent a marvelous thrum and thump to every song he touched, were greased cogs at the core of TVOTR's polyglot mix of machinery goes without saying.

Ultimately, what made the band's 80-minute performance Thursday so brightly and brilliantly charged with electricity was all of the above elements, hard-wired to connect through, and to, multiple outlets. When a band makes you think of Sly Stone and Gnarls Barkley ("Red Dress") as easily as it does Phil Spector and sleigh bells ( "Family Tree" and "Young Liars"), you've got a unique group on your hands.

The last time TVOTR was in Boston, playing the Wilbur Theatre in October, it brought a horn section. This time, stripped back to the formidable essentials, the band sounded like a glorious street symphony, an orchestra unto itself.

"Well, there's a golden age comin' round," sang Adebimpe in his fluttering tenor, repeating the last two words like a mantra, as if willing the promise real. Meanwhile, the tune's dancing melody bopped infectiously around him, engulfing him and enveloping us. "Let it move right in. Let it kiss your face. Let it sow your skin in perpetual embrace. . . . The age of miracles. The age of sound . . . Comin' round, comin' round, comin' round."

Suddenly in that instant, in the glorious sway and bend of sound, the waiting was over. The moment - golden and gleaming - had finally, fully arrived.


At: House of Blues, Thursday

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