Even though their set was rhythmically riotous and they encored with the song "Dancing Choose," New York art-punk rockers TV on the Radio actually didn't have a lot of people dancing Tuesday night at First Avenue. Instead, fans sort of just convulsed and shook madly to the music, and sometimes just stood and stared. All of which was the perfect reaction.
Kicking off a two-night stand -- makeup dates for canceled shows in April when their former bassist died of cancer -- the critically adored underground rock heroes and First Ave vets were as sonically riveting and awesomely unconventional as ever. But they did take a while to get things moving.
After the stirring opener "Halfway Home," the first third or so of the 100-minute set dragged a bit. Slower-stewing new songs such as "Caffeinated Consciousness" and the new single "Will Do" simply didn't do it on stage, and even the Bowie-styled older gem "Province" sounded a little lagging and off-key.
Guitarist/co-vocalist Kyp Malone twice commented on how much he enjoyed his day at the Minnesota State Fair (where he appeared at the booth of public radio's the Current), so maybe he ate too much food and temporarily dragged the rest of the band down.
Just as TVOTR's new album, "Nine Types of Light," takes a while to digest, the concert gradually shaped up into something magical. And in the end, a couple of the new songs were instrumental in making it a memorable night compared with the band's many previous shows there.
Foremost among the new ones was "Repetition," a stuttering sort of rocker that built up into a frantic, stormy, Fugazi-like punk scorcher. This is when a good chunk of the near-capacity crowd just stood awestruck, soaking in the hair-raising music.
Then, in the encore, main singer Tunde Adebimpe helped turn the somewhat languid-sounding "Forgotten" into a mesmerizing anthem, during which he urged audience members to chant the word "light" -- to combat all the darkness in the world, he said. It turned into quite a beautiful bit, actually.
Weirdly, the band did not include two of the best tracks on the new disc, "No Future" and "Keep Your Heart," but maybe they were saved for Wednesday's set.
The songs you can count on hearing at nearly every TVOTR concert, "Young Liars," "Staring at the Sun" and "Wolf Like Me," were as viscerally satisfying as always, even with a few new twists thrown in. The band's new trombone player -- that's right: trombone in a blaring rock band, deal with it! -- helped blow up "Staring" into an extra-freaky performance (he also added oomph to "Red Dress" earlier in the set).
Meanwhile, "Wolf Like Me" sounded as fresh and flush as ever thanks to the way the band segued into it straight from "Repetition," turning the stand-and-stare part of the set into a hyper-spastic burst of movement. TVOTR is one band that even manages to avoid repeating its classics the same way.
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TVOTR's set list at startribune.com/artcetera