TV on the Radio | 10.15.06

With his arms outstretched, his hands clapping, his body bouncing from side to side, Tunde Adebimpe had congregation-like attention from the audience.


9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.

I haven't really been to church since I was 13. Oh, I've been since then, but more in a Christmas guilt, cynical kind of way. Yet late on Sunday night, TV on the Radio's frontman Tunde Adebimpe's arms directed and flailed like a man overcome by a spirit. A musical spirit? A Michael Stipe in the "Losing My Religion" video spirit? Only the musical proselytizer Adebimpe knows. But with his arms outstretched, his hands clapping, his body bouncing from side to side, he had congregation-like attention from the audience, so much so that he commented on the silence from the crowd between songs. "D.C., you're quiet," the soft-spoken Adebimpe pronounced. It's because we were listening to you, guy.

I have especially fond memories of seeing the opening band originally booked for this show, Grizzly Bear, at DC9 over a year ago with a crowd of about 20 other people, getting a glimpse at their evolution from trio to quartet. Alas, due to transportation complications, there was no Ed Droste to be seen upon my entrance into the 9:30 Club. There were no eerily folky bears. There were no quietly noisy grizzlies. Instead, there was Celebration.

To make the following generalizations feel unfair by virtue of just how unfair generalizations inherently are, Celebration's Katrina Ford brought to mind Siouxsie Sioux meets Jefferson Airplane-era Grace Slick with some Karen O thrown in and a dollop of Stevie Nicks. At times, she too was overcome with the spirit, shaking her tambourine with such vehemence as to suggest the phrase, "The power of Christ compels you." Unfortunately, her powerful vocals were often muffled during their set, but for providing emergency opening duties, Celebration generated an energy and playfulness from bells to saxophones that were a good complement to TVOTR. This makes particular sense, since TVOTR's David Sitek has taken on production duties for Celebration.

Starting with a pair of energetic offerings from TVOTR's 2004 release, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, "Wrong Way" followed by "Dreams," the show came to a quick start with "Dreams" itching to be just a bit bigger than it was. TVOTR's September '06 release, Return to Cookie Mountain, has many of the same elements of the 2004 release with its multilayered vocals, gospel undertones, and punk sensibilities, but finds TVOTR no longer showing tremendous potential but instead showcasing their existing talents. The harmonies between Adebimpe and Kyp Malone on the anthemic "Province" created an aural cocoon. It's official: I want wind chimes on my guitar, too, Sitek!

Preparing the audience for "Blues from Down Here," the lights dimmed to blue and Adebimpe asked the crowd to imagine sailing in shark-infested waters, traveling through high seas bombarded by splashing water for the near-gospel shanty. "I Was a Lover" brought out the handclaps, while "Wolf Like Me" showed Adebimpe in all of his vocal strength and physical performance as a serious force to be reckoned with.

The encore included "Staring at the Sun," with a drumming change-up that demanded a disco triple clap, and "Let the Devil In," with Celebration assisting in percussion and vocal duties, did not disappoint. But damn, did Monday morning hurt.

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