They Might Be Giants played See Further: The Festival of Science + Arts twice on Saturday 26 June. We sent our reporter Nicola Evans along to the afternoon family performance.
Science in song? Initially cynical, I was blown away by the uncanny ability of They Might Be Giants to deliver science facts in rhyme. Vocalist and guitarist John Flansburgh opened their lively show by introducing the theme, “We have a new album called 'Here Comes Science'. That's right parents and kids! It's too early to leave and we've locked all the exit doors. We're going to be playing songs about facts!”
Science is often seen as a scary subject, but this band is proving that geek chic really is back, putting the rock into Rockets, the fun into fusion and the solution into evolution.
The first song up 'Meet The Elements' had several charming lyrics such as “elephants are made of elements” and fun but informative facts, “Iron is a metal, you see it every day. Oxygen, eventually will make it rust away”.
The song even seemed to play homage to the helium AirPenguin ballonet manoeuvring around the hall, singing “Balloons are full of helium and so is every star”. The AirPenguin almost stole the show eerily moving about the blue lights above before moving towards the stage. “IT'S COMING STRAIGHT AT ME!” Flansburgh screamed to the delight of the kids trying to beckon it to them.
Predictably the favourite song of all the five year olds in the audience was 'I am a Palaeontologist'. It was a great sight to see them singing along to all the long dinosaur words with a bit of silliness mixed in, “Maybe a Carnotaur? Digging, digging, digging, digging, Or some other Saur, I don't know!”. That is the genius of TMBG, they don't dumb down their lyrics and they seem to rhyme seemingly difficult words magnificently.
One of the biggest surprises were some mystery guests; “What Is a Shooting Star?” was sung by sock puppets projected onto a wall by a web cam, “A shooting star is not a star, why does it shine so bright? The friction as it falls to earth produces heat and light”.
That's the thing about TMBG, they are not just a band, they are a comedy troupe and theatrical geniuses all rolled into one foot stomping, hand clapping show and the children in the audience were catered for wonderfully. The audience was encouraged to stand up to dance and jump to the music and at one point they released a confetti cannon into the audience. The kids loved it, catching it from the air and gathering up armfuls to throw at each other throughout the show.
What amazed me most about this band, was despite the humour and the gimmicky songs they really were great musicians. So whilst the children were singing to 'Why Does the Sun Shine' in a pirate voice “The sun is a middle sized staAARRGH”, the adults in the audience could enjoy the funky riffs and amazing solos punctuating the show. A true family event that adults and children could both enjoy. It left me wondering how many of the parents were willingly dragged along to endure this wonderful event.