San Diego-bred, NYC-based Brett Uddenberg is a music journalist with over 100 published album and concert reviews to date. He writes for sites and publications including URB Magazine, DailySpots and San Diego Reader and has interviewed artists such as WHY?, Buck 65, Pigeon John and Dessa of Doomtree. Brett also works in freelance PR, crafting bios and one-sheets for a variety of independent musicians across the nation.
TV on the Radio’s second trek through San Diego in support of Nine Types of Light in the calendar year was a much tighter affair than May’s outing at 4th & B. Though the soundman once again had trouble with Tunde Adebimpe’s vocals bleeding into the overall mix, the Greek theater setting of Open Air was far more suited to the Brooklynites’ expansive art rock compositions. An intricate space-themed backdrop catapulted by shifting flourishes of light gave any synesthesia enthusiasts in the stands their money’s worth. The UK’s Arctic Monkeys, backed by some progressive drumming and intuitive riffs, were also crowd-pleasers with their opening act. That being said, the terrace was shockingly desolate and common sense would suggest Live Nation’s hefty fees were to blame. “Repetition” and “Second Song” highlighted a TVOTR set list as diverse as the crowd in attendance. Hipsters and drunkards alike marched down the half-empty concrete steps for a closer view of Adebimpe and Kyp Malone’s symbiotic vocal interplay. The band closed out their performance with the manic energy of “Wolf Like Me,” containing a soulful breakdown that sucked all the energy of the night toward the stage like a vacuum, then emphatically released it back onto the audience with a furious, guitar-driven climax.
By the time the soundman got the mix right, which was about four songs into the set, a near-capacity crowd had climbed over numerous spilled drinks and filled every nook and cranny of the Belly Up to catch a proper vantage point of Saharan rebel rockers Tinariwen.
The band’s inspired journey from fighting in the Tuareg resistance against Mali and Niger in the early ’90s to captivating audiences with a barrage of guitars and hand drums in 2011 is reflected in their mantra “music is a weapon.” Like Bob Marleys occupying their own distinct time and space, the pure, peaceful message of these desert blues practitioners resonates with crowds who don’t speak a lick of Tamashek.
Tinariwen’s set began with the serpentine rhythms of “Imidiwan Ma Tennam,” the intro to their soon to be released Tassili, an acoustic album featuring contributions from Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio as well as Nels Cline of Wilco. Through songs old and new, the absorbing call-and-response among the band members spilled into the fervent handclaps of the audience in a recirocal display of positive energy that defined the night.
Tinariwen are a musical collective from Mali who have gained wide recognition for their brand of desert blues thanks to excellent albums and acclaimed performances at some of the world’s biggest festivals. Incorporating Algerian rai, Egyptian pop and Led Zeppelin, their last album, 2009’s Imidiwan, won an Uncut award for being “the most inspiring and richly rewarding album of the last 12 months.” This year, Tinariwen release their fifth album Tassili, and the first single, “Tenere Taqqim Tossam,” debuts here. Built around an undulating bassline and a spidery guitar figure, it features TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe whose vocal interplay on the chorus blends perfectly with the backing, enhancing but never transforming the song into anything other than a Tinariwen track.
Most current rock acts would be brought to their collective knees by a whimpering sound system. While the unflattering acoustics of 4th&B could have spoiled the evening, Tunde Adebimpe and his TV on the Radio cohorts are simply too talented to not put on a great show anyway. Their meandering set list featured classics such as “Wolf Like Me” along with newer gems from Nine Types of Light such as “Will Do” and “No Future Shock.”
The Brooklyn-based band’s energy peaked with a stellar rendition of “Red Dress” from 2008’s Dear Science. Adebimpe and fellow front man Kyp Malone powered through the dissonance and distortion and delivered the infectious melodies that the sweat-soaked dance floor demanded.
TV On The Radio’s yearlong hiatus allowed its members to explore many disparate creative avenues. From Dave Sitek’s synth-heavy Maximum Balloon project to Kyp Malone’s eclectic Rain Machine record to Tunde Adebimpe’s first mainstream acting role (Rachel Getting Married), the band had a chance to grow and recharge their batteries. Once reunited, they shook off the dust and recorded Nine Types of Light.
Adebimpe’s soulful pleas on “Will Do” and crisp harmonizing with Malone on “Keep Your Heart” spill into refreshingly mature and honest love songs. The masterful falsetto-baritone interplay, always a part of the TVOTR formula, is delicately stretched over “New Cannonball Blues” and blanketed by distorted bass and subtle funk riffs. The album, recorded in Los Angeles instead of their native Brooklyn for the first time, is a warm affair that strays from the dissonant, minor key components of TVOTR’s earlier material.
For as much of a triumph as the new album is, its beauty is flanked by last week’s tragic passing of bassist Gerard Smith. TVOTR canceled five dates on the itinerary, but with heavy hearts the show goes on and makes its way to 4th & B on May 2.
The self-titled debut release from Maximum Balloon, the artist better known as TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek, plays out much like a TVOTR record albeit with a slightly different cast of characters. Bandmates Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone are along for part of the ride and joined by the likes of Theophilus London, Holly Miranda, and Little Dragon. The synthy dancefloor funk of “Groove Me” gets things ignited and segues well into the horn-inflected, multi-tiered ambience of “Young Love.” “Absence of Light” (featuring Adebimpe) and “Shake Down” (featuring Malone) are classic, uptempo TVOTR tracks that tie the record together well.
The back-and-forth dynamic of male to female vocalists is also paramount to the album’s continuity. Karen O’s silky vocals carry the airy “Communion” and the beautiful crooning of Holly Miranda sits gently atop the downtempo drums of “The Lesson.” The explosive lead single “Tiger,” which features a serpentine feline chasing people through an endless sea of balloons in the excellent music video, is Sitek letting loose all the tools in his vast arsenal. The track leaps out of the frame thanks to the vocal stylings of Aku, whose delivery bears an uncanny resemblance to Adebimpe.