TV on the Radio first played in Saratoga Springs in 2007, on a side stage at a WEQX-sponsored festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, at a time when the Brooklyn art rock band was just breaking out beyond college radio and getting more mainstream play with their “Wolf Like Me” single.
It was a sweltering July afternoon, and the band found itself – somewhat ironically – staring straight into the sun as they played their groundbreaking first single, “Staring at the Sun.” But singer Tunde Adebimpe was a whirlwind, bounding around the stage as the band cut through the stupor of the heat with a searing energy.
Four years later, TV on the Radio returned to the area on Friday night to play Skidmore College’s major concert event of the fall semester, and the group is now one of the most acclaimed indie rock bands of the past decade.
Their latest album, “Nine Types of Light,” isn’t as immediately accessible as their three previous full-lengths. It’s a bit more melancholic. Bassist Gerard Smith died from cancer just nine days after its release in April. It’s a bit more challenging, too, although a few songs – like the bristling new waver “No Future Shock” and the slow-burning single “Will Do” – are growers.
At Skidmore, TV on the Radio drew sparingly from the new album, dropping only three “Nine Types of Light” tunes: the elegiac “Second Song,” the lovelorn “Will Do” and the glitchy, futuristic “Repetition.”
Instead, they stuck to what they do best live, cherry-picking some of their most dynamic songs from the past to fully harness the energy and onstage alchemy of their raging six-piece, which included Adebimpe, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Kyp Malone, guitarist David Sitek, drummer Jahphet Landis, trombonist Aaron Johnson and bassist Jaleel Bunton (who formerly played drums but took over bass to replace Smith).
A flurry of handclaps and ba-ba-ba vocals by Adebimpe kicked off “Halfway Home,” and the band didn’t let up much from there, with Adebimpe jittering across the stage to the skittish “The Wrong Way,” spitting out the acerbic lyrics to “Dancing Choose” and urging fans to clap along to the grooving “Golden Age.”
At first, Skidmore’s Williamson Sports Center seemed insufficiently full for an act that now sells out significant-sized venues. But well over 1,000 tickets had been sold, and the crowd in the cavernous gym steadily grew – and got their dance on – as the show came to a close with well-received songs like “Red Dress,” “Staring at the Sun” and “Wolf Like Me.”
Fitting for a band that first became known in part for their inventive doo-wop cover of the Pixies’ “Mr. Grieves,” TV on the Radio treated the crowd to a cover of another late ‘80s modern rock classic – Fugazi’s “Waiting Room” – as an encore before fans streamed out past gym locker-rooms at show’s end.
Austra, a goth-dance-new-wave troupe from Toronto who opened the show, had a bit of a fashion victim vibe, all tank tops and angular hair, with platinum-maned singer Katie Stelmanis punctuating the band’s dramatic synth-pop songs with theatrical waves of her hands.
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Taylor Morris’ review at Metroland
Sara Foss’ review at Foss Forward
Uncredited photograph at Skidmore Unofficial
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “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… 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.
TV ON THE RADIO SET LIST
The Wrong Way
Blues from Down Here
Staring at the Sun
Wolf Like Me
Waiting Room (Fugazi)