About twenty minutes into his set with They Might Be Giants at the Enmore Theatre, John Linnell announced that he was Beyonce. The claim was met with healthy laughter from the crowd, as Linnell and bandmate John Flansburgh launched into a cover of Destiny’s Child Bills Bills, and at the time it seemed like a pleasant piece of banter. But by the conclusion of the huge, gem-studded set, Linnell’s claim started to make a surreal kind of sense. He and Flansburgh are genuine celebrities in the way Beyonce is; towering titans of music the way Beyonce is; filled with love for their fans the way Beyonce is. In fact, they’ve even got the moves like Beyonce, too.
Announcing that they were going to be playing songs from every They Might Be Giants album ‘except one’, they blasted through a set filled with surprise hits, paying care to the whole sprawling mass of their back catalogue. Particle Man was one of the many tunes that stood out, with Flansburgh bounding about the stage hypnotically, but the quasi death metal strains of Older impressed too, and as the lights around the two Johns strobed and flickered, their macabre, mortality focussed lyrics took on a stirring power.
It says much about their longevity and continuing skills that their more recent material felt as essential as their so called classics. Answer, the brilliant song off their most recent album, and a recent addition to their ‘Dial-A-Song’ project, filled the room with warmth and energy, and the song’s bridge resonated with a real emotion.
Of the two, Flansburgh spoke more, spruiking his Instagram account (which contains pictures of cats and stuff he owns, apparently) but Linnell proved to be just as charismatic a figure. Though he spent much of the set behind his famed keyboard, he also stepped out from behind the machine to pick up his trusty accordion, squeezing his way through a rendition of Instanbul (Not Constantinople) that threaded a significant vein of humour throughout the enthusiastic number.
It was the very definition of a well crafted set, mixing the inevitable classics with the B-sides and lesser known cuts that had the long -time fans melt into ecstatic applause. Indeed, the set was so lengthy the Johns split it in two, and even a twenty minute break couldn’t deflate the mood in the room.
It’s hard to imagine what more one could have wanted from the show. As the two Johns gazed down into their adoring audience, there was a very real sense of love emanating from the pair. These aren’t two musicians who perform for the money, or for artificial ego inflation. These are two musicians who perform because they love it, and are loved in turn for doing it. It’s why, from this moment on, the two Johns will always be Beyonce to me.