Accompanying contempo authors Dave Eggers, Sarah Vowell and Zadie Smith in a night of prose, verse, and comical irony, They Might Be Giants provided the necessary musical punctuation for the readings from Dave Egger’s 2001 collaboration with Zadie Smith, Sarah Vowell and others, titled “McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern #6.” The scholarly journal, with its 44-song soundtrack featuring 37 TMBG songs, has led to the show, which Giants front man John Flansburgh explained, “The children need this show like they need cereal in the shape of monkeys.”
TMBG’s backed the authors in the early going, playing “Bangs” to complement Smith’s reading of “A Girl With Bangs” and “Anderson and Gallowsville, It Could Be Worse” for Sarah Vowell’s Salem witch-trial rant. They imitated other bands, namely Morrissey, the Steve Miller Band and Alan Parsons Project, to fill in Egger’s own short about a 10-year-old boy in the 1980s taping tunes off the hi-fi.
Their own hourlong set started with an invitation for all the reclining intellectuals to dance or at least participate with a bounce-acknowledging beat. Act continues to wander through a host of genres: rockabilly fired up “She Thinks She’s Edith Head”; metal bands influence “Man, It’s So Loud in Here”; surf rock curls over “Why Does the Sun Shine?”; and “I Am a Bag of Groceries” is oh-so Elvis-ish.
The versatility of TMBG is the stamina that keeps the audience guessing and chuckling at the strong personalities that often overpower the chords. Linnell impresses with the staccato accordion in the encore’s “Violin”; the band seemingly improvises to radio songs including Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” and Dixie Cups “Chapel of Love.” Finally, TMBG ended their evening with “Fingerpaints,” a mix of all of their imitative genres for audience members that were previously “unsatisfied.” Their 12th album, “NO!,” hits stores June 11.