As the first bone-chilling slap of winter hit the city, TV On The Radio bathed Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater in a sonic flood of familiar warmth. Coinciding with the release of their latest album, Seeds, the Brooklyn darlings eased right into the night with a soul-wrenching version of their early “Young Liars.”
Three years since their last full-length, which was followed by the death of bassist Gerard Smith, TVOTR have opened a cathartic vein from which the new material bleeds. Boiling with honest love and loss, propelled by layer upon layer of careful melodic design, they continue to hone their rare brand of infectious music. Luckily for us all, TVOTR unleashed a potent mix of old and new songs on the Apollo, reiterating their place as pioneers in a time of mediocrity.
Having caught TVOTR a handful of times throughout their career – from dingy club shows to sun soaked festival sets – there is a correlation with my own personal journey that is hard to ignore. I have a feeling that much of the thirty-something crowd at the Apollo was in the same reflective boat. The band’s early albums fittingly played the soundtrack to experimental school days, which then evolved and peaked with the mind-blowing Return to Cookie Mountain (2006). This is when the looming reality of adulthood got heavy, and we all sought freak-out relief from anthems like “Wolf Like Me,” which they reminded us of with a speedy and mesmerizing version.
Then came 2008’s Dear Science, timed perfectly with the full-on launch of grappling with winding career paths and the desire for a balance between creativity and stability. TVOTR sparked flashbacks of this period with a sluggishly pointed “DLZ” in the encore, before closing with the beloved synth and fuzz-driven deep cut “Staring at the Sun.”
At the end of the night, the sense of relief was real. For those of us who’ve embraced TVOTR as part of our soundtracks, we can all sleep easier, and then awake refreshed to fight our personal battles. Why? Because we can still escape, and relish in their crashing waves of enlightening distortion to stir up vivid recollections of a blurred decade.
– John Figlesthaler