Live Music + Gig Reviews

TV On The Radio @ KOKO, London

10 November 2006

New York’s TV On The Radio are from that breed of bands who have the critics queuing in an orderly fashion to pat / peck / kiss / rub their various body areas with the seal of so-called “acclaim.” I’ll hold up my hands beacuse I’m a guilty party.

It is working though. KOKO is jammed, even upstairs where the levels go on for more floors than Harrods. Now we’re not talking jam-packed full of fans streaming tears as they sing with their heroes. Curiosity and word of mouth have filled KOKO tonight.

Like it or not, there are certain bands that journalists go in the frame of mind with a big green tick. In this economy of bands, there are those who sit aloft, bridging the divide between indie (and i mean real indie) and cool. They can do no wrong and when they do, their godlike genius outshines any perceived moment of mortality.

TVOTR of course humbly see themselves as simply “The Family” who live in the same world as us. “This family is vulnerable to the same toxins & viruses & addictions as yours. Celebrates like yours. Feels joy & pain like yours. Trips good & bad vibes like yours.”

It’s hard to believe that. Their genre-spanning sound and imagery crafted from the mirror dream worlds reflected in their two albums can’t possibly be of this earth (there I go again). So it is that these Apollos have been frowned upon by a jealous Zeus and a spell has been cast to bring his talented sons back to Earth.

For whatever invention we may see (wind chimes hanging from guitars) and the absolute concentration we see them focus on, TVOTR just don’t seem to break into any stride. The show feels perpetually like they’ve just walked on. “What next?” is all I’m feeling even though Dreams, Staring At The Sun and Wolf Like Me have come and gone. The crowd are on a similar wavelength, save for a hatful of devotees up front, this is a crowd who does not know these songs and are still making their minds up with polite, if reserved applause.

The lightning bolt of ruin can lay firmly at KOKO’s door. The acoustics are more hit and miss than the Israeli army. Was there even a sound check? Part of what makes live music a fantastically unique thing is seeing a band amplify or rework what they created in the controlled environs of a studio. For a band as astute as TVOTR are in the art of production, to project such an ostentatiously buffered wall of sound does them so little justice.

Maybe we expect too much from the bands we love these days, but this gig should have had classic written all over it (it probably does in certain quarters). That’s how I felt going into it. Then it ocurred to me that set loose in the live arena is where we see the gods we build up in their element, and it’s good to know – from time to time – they are fallible beings too.

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More on TV On The Radio
TV On The Radio – Seeds
TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light
TV On The Radio @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
TV On The Radio @ KOKO, London