It was quite appropriate that TV on the Radio chose to cover Fugazi during their encore at Skidmore College’s Williamson Sports Center on Friday night.
Appropriate, because TV on the Radio is the most exciting rock ’n’ roll band, bar none, to hit the national music scene since Fugazi first stormed out of Washington, D.C., in 1987. The Brooklyn-based quintet is the only band to even touch Fugazi’s rabid experimentation, power and cathartic release — let alone build upon it, and create absolutely stunning music in the process.
That’s a pretty loaded claim, but if you were at the show, you heard and saw it for yourself — the way Tunde Adebimpe’s and Kyp Malone’s vocals pushed and pulled on each other; the twin guitar attack of Malone and David Sitek that shifted from haunting to thunderous on a dime; the pounding rhythms created by bassist Jaleel Bunton (moving from drums to replace the late Gerald Smith) and drummer Jahphet Landis.
small, but frenzied
For close to two hours, the band pushed the crowd (a decent turnout, but still criminally small considering the quality delivered here) into a swirling frenzy.
Maybe you’ve heard the band’s classic 2008 release “Dear Science,” or the new album, “Nine Types of Light,” or any of their other records. You haven’t really heard TV on the Radio unless you’ve seen this beast live — not to take away from the band’s already brilliant albums.
These performances crushed their album counterparts, from the Ramones-esque salvo of “Halfway Home” that kicked things off, to the angry verses and pretty choruses of “Dancing Choose.” Even the pretty single from “Nine Types of Light,” “Will Do,” became a punishing epic in this setting. And I thought I was a fan before this show.
The highlights were too many to mention, from the slow building frenzy of “Young Liars” to the haunting trombone parts courtesy of Aaron Johnson on “DLZ.” The sunny love songs that filled “Nine Types of Light,” though wildly different from the band’s previous work, fit perfectly alongside older punk freakouts such as main set closer “Wolf Like Me,” which got the crowd fist-pumping and shouting along.
Even with the loss of Smith to cancer earlier this year, the band exuded a joyful energy throughout the evening — though they mostly eschewed stage banter except for an occasional, “Is everyone still doing good out there?” from a grinning Adebimpe.
As a bonus, openers Austra, from Toronto, were also pretty great (they’d have to be to open for this roaring show). While frontwoman Katie Stelmanis channeled Stevie Nicks with hypnotic hand movements and haunting vocals throughout songs like “Lose It,” the rest of the band created a swirling mix of electronic keyboard sounds and pounding rhythms, bringing to mind Depeche Mode or New Order’s most powerful moments. Their debut album, “Feel it Break,” was released in May and, judging from this performance, they’ll be a band to watch out for in the coming years.
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