They Might Be Giants bring the ‘Flood,’ and the fun, at the Wiltern

They Might Be Giants at the Wiltern (Photo by Stevo Rood / ARood Photo)


There’s nothing quite like a They Might Be Giants show, as those who have attended their concerts over their 40(!)-year career can attest. Where else will you find songs with lyrics like “everybody dies frustrated and sad, and that is beautiful” mixed in with a vintage novelty song featuring outdated scientific data delivered in a questionable Neil Sedaka impression?

On Friday night, both of those sides of the band were on full display in front of a capacity crowd at the Wiltern. The sold-out show, originally scheduled for late 2020 but postponed repeatedly as the result of COVID-19, was billed as a 30th-anniversary celebration of the band’s landmark 1990 album, “Flood.”

Those expecting a standard “play the record in order plus a few hits” type of show were instead treated to a more unique approach. Every song on the album was represented in some form or another throughout the show’s two sets, in often innovative ways — the band’s unofficial theme song, “They Might Be Giants,” was played over the PA in remixed form as the band took the stage, while “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” was performed sonically in reverse, with even the words themselves sung backwards (the performance was filmed and shown back to the audience, reversed to sound “correct,” at the start of the second set).

Despite the set having 19 of its songs already guaranteed, the performance still offered some surprises, such as the band interpolating the Sun Ra Arkestra’s “Rocket #9” into “Flood” classic “Particle Man,” as well as two songs from late-period classic “Glean” and impressive turns from each member of the three-man horn section (including longtime TMBG collaborator Mark Pender, reprising his trumpet solo at the end of fan-favorite “Doctor Worm”).

They Might Be Giants have 23 studio albums, and by devoting two-thirds of the performance to just one, they ran the risk of ostracizing a large portion of their catalog. But the band’s most ardent supporters have been just that — supportive. And as John Linnell announced “we’re coming in for a splash landing” before launching into a one-two-three punch of “Theme From Flood,” “Birdhouse In Your Soul,” and arguably the band’s most well-known song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople),” the roars of approval from the thousands of fans let the band know in no certain terms that, at least in that theater, the world was in love again.

Set 1: They Might Be Giants, Damn Good Times, Synopsis for Latecomers, When Will You Die, Twisting, Someone Keeps Moving My Chair, We Want a Rock, Your Racist Friend, The Darlings of Lumberland, Stellub (Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, performed backwards), Moonbeam Rays, Brontosaurus, Lucky Ball and Chain, Road Movie to Berlin, Particle Man. Set 2: Hearing Aid, Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, Memo to Human Resources, Minimum Wage, Letterbox, Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas), Whistling in the Dark, Hot Cha, Let Me Tell You About My Operation, Women and Men, Dead, Theme From Flood, Birdhouse in Your Soul, Istanbul (Not Constantinople). Encore: The Mesopotamians, Don’t Let’s Start, Underwater Woman, Doctor Worm

Photos by Stevo Rood / ARood Photo