TV on the Radio Rock the Warfield

Brooklyn-Based Five-Man Indie Band Bring Diverse Set and Unique Intensity to San Francisco Fans

Gretchen Faust/Courtesy

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Monday morning loomed 12 hours away, but droves turned up to see Brooklyn avant-gardists TV on the Radio bust out their brand of deluxe noise rock and brainy electronic abrasion at the Warfield on a balmy Sunday night. In promoting Dear Science, the band's middle-finger kiss-off to the scientific community, they walk angry rock lyricism up to your face and keep it there. While previous albums have demonstrated the marked variety of TV on the Radio's musical DNA-the band's oeuvre is a mongrel of genres, spanning electro, soul, glitch, jazz and riot punk-Dear Science marks what frontman Tunde Adebimpe calls "a subconscious effort" to record a dance album.

If the goal was to get people up and hopping, opening act the Dirtbombs brought help in spades: They pulled off the admirable feat of sounding exactly like their name, jacking up noise levels to an altitude just past thunderous and just short of unbearable. Acknowledging that TV on the Radio were the main course, the Dirtbombs were nonetheless frenzied, charged, excited-a good racket to get the ventricles worked up for the main act.

Musically, the TV on the Radio set was all about pushing distortion and variation to the point of transformation. Unlike bands that reproduce the studio versions of their songs down to the last guitar chord, fingersnap and handclap, TV on the Radio revel in mixing it up. Incarnations of old favorites show up lengthened, shortened or downgraded from split-knuckled rock to a mellow lullaby. For "Golden Age," an undisputed heavyweight from the new record, the band revved its engines and played the song in frenetic double-time. Other songs, like "DLZ" and "Let the Devil In," were beefed up or stripped down, festooned with jingling bells or the fluent lilt of Adebimpe's whistlings. While the set list was largely devoted to showcasing tracks off the new record, the live renditions played like turbocharged cousins to the scrawny album favorites.

What made the set such a success was the energy of vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, who moved with a wired jerkiness seldom seen in those not hopped up on triple-shot frappucino lattes. Kyp Malone was calmer but no less crucial in providing the bedrock vocals on tracks like "Crying" and "Golden Age." Chaotic instrumentation and songs with enough melodic backbone to shame a Coldplay gig make for a sonically dizzying concert experience. But while the band's music is memorable for its feral jungle textures and raucous experimentalism, TV on the Radio remembered to pull a couple of dainty numbers from up their sleeves and play those, too.

And lest we forget that the band has a message to convey, songs as explosively political as "Dancing Choose" and "Red Dress" remind listeners that the war can go to hell and that the Prez should go, ahem, love himself while he's at it. For a record previously titled "Bacon Versus French Fries in Battle for the Delicious Universe," the new songs seem remarkably cerebral--until you remember it was TV on the Radio who recorded them.

Braving a moshpit for the neo-revivalist party that TV on the Radio put on every time they book a show is something of a feat: Sunday's crowd was physical all the way up to beloved "Staring at the Sun," which closed the four-song encore set. The band packed in crunching rhythms and yelping vocals, then topped everything off with an extended coda that wasn't so much a sing-along as a blistering choral shout-aloud. It was, you could say, their way of burning some metaphysical rubber on their way out of the parking lot.

Brave your next moshpit with Danica at [email protected]

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