“Hello?” Tunde Adebimpe phrases it like a question. He’s addressing us—we, the people—standing in the orchestra section and the tiers, who for the moment can only see silhouettes of six bodies on a large open mouth of a stage, framed by very nicely draped curtains. And Jaleel Bunton’s white linen pants. Usually there are just five who comprise TV On The Radio, and those players are present, along with an open-shirted, strong-stanced trombone player who kind of looks like Jesus. Dave Sitek has a wind chime hanging off the neck of his guitar and jangles with both of his instruments, as he and his fellow men open slowly and expansively into “Young Liars.” Adebimpe (the only man to look good in a fedora; A-Trak doesn’t count) fills the wide stage with his strange yet utterly mesmerizing moves—part deranged Fosse, part … jumping prawn?
This is the first time the Brooklyn band has played Radio City Music Hall, a beautiful art deco venue whose plush seats are currently used by no one in the standing crowd. “Jaleel says can we have a tiny ‘holy shit’ moment,” Adebimpe says, “cuz from here you look awesome.” The sides of the venue are rounded like the inside of a cave, and the bodies of the men on stage project onto the walls, like giant shadow puppets or Prince’s half-time show at the Super Bowl.
TV On The Radio is here playing for us in support and celebration of its latest and fourth album, Nine Types Of Light. This number doesn’t count the EPs and bits and pieces it has released in between, and through the cycle of recording and promoting through touring, the band has created a live presence that has mostly always been impressive to watch. Due to size and structure though, Radio City is a challenge for any act under the number of 10 members, and the group of six seems a little awestruck that it’s here. The space is big and, despite the fantastic acoustics, hard to fill with energy (from row YY, which is pretty sweet, they still look like tiny stage people). As the group finishes a song and stops before starting another, there’s a lull in the flow, and building it up again seems laborious.
That’s not to say that it isn’t great. It is, and all of the members put into their performance what they usually do. Kyp Malone is stomping and singing, Bunton is straight up grooving, Adebimpe does his jammy dance thing and actually pulls out a cord or two (“way to get invited back,” he says), Sitek holds it together, and the drummer keeps electric time with no indication of sweat on his buttoned-up white shirt. Jesus keeps on blowing, or tambourining when his trombone isn’t needed. The selection is fair, focusing on new tracks (this is for the latest album, after all) while appeasing us with the familiar. A disco ball spins at the faux-end. This is an encore type of venue, you see, and so the sextet obliges. Playing Radio City has got to be some kind of milestone in a band’s career, and TV On The Radio, as it should, wants to do it right.