TV on the Radio’s Unpolished Power

“Young liars, thank you for taking my hand,” TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe hypnotically sang, extending his hands to his audience. On April 16 the five-man Brooklyn band captivated the audience in the House of Blues with their unique blend of rock in a show that deftly combined nearly equal amounts from each of their four critically-acclaimed records.

TV on the Radio did not draw heavily from their latest release “Nine Types of Light” and thereby represented the unbelievable depth and diversity of their stylistic range. Following the opening “Young Liars,” a rhythmic, repetitive song that pulled the audience into the concert’s mesmeric atmosphere, the band segued into an unrelentingly raucous rendition of “Halfway Home,” a song from their previous record “Dear Science.” The enthusiasm of the band was electric—from shout-outs to Boston to Adebimpe’s frenzied jumping, “Halfway Home” set an upbeat, forceful tone that the group sustained for the rest of the concert.

TV on the Radio has always been concerned with overall presentation and performance over specific song craft—their latest album was released with an hour long film. The visual aspect of their sound was represented not only by their energy but also by the fantastic light show. In addition to stage lights, individual beams of light shot out from the stage, silhouetting the band above the audience. Their lighting perfectly reflected the mood, lyrics, and groove of each song. Nowhere was this more apparent than in “Blues from Down Here,” a throwback to their 2006 album “Return to Cookie Mountain,” where the band’s assault of rhythmic sound during the line “pull the pin, drop it in, let it wash away your” was mirrored with flashing, ecstatic lights.

Despite the general aura of frenetic excitement, not every song was loud and upbeat, and it was in the more contemplative songs that TV on the Radio’s intricate and careful staging best complemented the music. In “Will Do,” the love-lorn first single off “Nine Types of Light,” the band seemed to seduce the audience; singing “Your love makes a fool of you / You can’t seem to understand” as the blue-swathed staged took on an otherworldly glow with the addition of small pink lights. Adebimpe garnered much attention for his acting in “Rachel Getting Married,” and he brings his expressive nature to his live shows as well. Set against a fog-filled stage, Adebimpe looked lost in the haze as he soulfully sang “You don’t want to waste your life in the middle of a lovesick lullaby.”

TV on the Radio’s incorporation of looping and, more recently, trombone is a unique highlight of their records, and these elements translate well to a live setting. It’s hard to imagine “Crying” and “Red Dress”—both tracks from “Dear Science”—without their signature trombone parts. On the end of “Province,” the song quiets to an eerie loop that sustains and then fades. With the addition of looping, trombone and a strange, tambourine-esque percussive instrument, TV on the Radio was truly able to capture the spirit of their albums in the venue. As they stripped off their albums’ layers of production, they revealed an equally compelling unpolished sound.


In perhaps the band’s most famous—and the concert’s loudest—song, “Wolf Like Me,” TV on the Radio unleashed a furious blast of percussion as Adebimpe sang “Open my hand and let it bleed onto yours,” again extending his hands to the audience, climbing onto a pedestal and pantomimed some of the song’s most salient images for the enthusiastic crowd.

Their final song “Satellite,” which like their opening number “Young Liars” came from their EP, encapsulated the upbeat, groove-based mood of the entire concert. In a song that, recorded, is relatively quiet, Adebimpe’s repetitive “I’m waiting for a signal or a sound, where can you be found now? Where can you be found now, my love, where can you be, waiting for a signal or a sound?” became an explosive finale. “I am the undertow,” he sang, tellingly immersing the audience once more in TV on the Radio’s hypnotic world.