Twin Cities fans of They Might Be Giants had to wait nearly three years to see the band’s “Flood” 30th anniversary tour. But the wait was well worth it.
Performing at First Avenue in Minneapolis on Friday night and across the river in St. Paul at the Fitzgerald Theater on Saturday, the witty, jubilant duo of John Flansburgh and John Linnell along with drummer Marty Beller and a talented horns section played hit after hit as well as some deep cuts to delighted audiences. I watched the livestream of Friday’s concert from my living room and attended Saturday’s show, both of which were sold out.
Originally scheduled in 2020 as the 30th anniversary of the band’s 1990 third album, “Flood,” the tour was postponed twice because of COVID-19. And the band hasn’t overlooked the serious impact of the pandemic, requesting that audience members at the Fitzgerald concert wear face masks and thanking them during the encore for complying. “I don’t want to disappoint John,” the person next to me explained as he pointed to his mask before the show started.
Both concerts featured all 19 songs from “Flood,” with the best-known hits “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” acting as the first and second set finales. Saturday’s encore finished with a rousing “Doctor Worm” from 1998’s “Severe Tire Damage,” while that song was among the first dozen on Friday. The only song I missed hearing Saturday was “Don’t Let’s Start,” which was featured at First Avenue.
The playful banter between Linnell and Flansburgh seemed to indicate the two still enjoy playing music together 40 years after forming the band, and their voices and musicianship are just as strong. Their energy level never flagged either in the 2 1/2-hour concert. At the start of Saturday’s show, my friend and I agreed it felt somewhat odd to have an assigned seat for a rock concert, but I was grateful to be able to sit down a bit as the 33-song set drew to a close. Linnell commented on the difference between the venues too and Saturday’s “polite” audience: “The largess of drunk people and the clatter of bars” is more what the band is accustomed to, perhaps why there were so many kids with their parents at the Fitz.
With a fantastic light and graphics show, a balcony guitar serenade, and superb sound, Saturday’s concert was indeed a gigantic success. As they sing in “Particle Man,” “When they meet it’s a happy land.”