The Tom Tom Club @ HMV Institute, 19th July 2011

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fter a day of hype, intrigue, media spin, hackgate and custard pies, tonight we get to see two members of a truly alternative and infuencial band on their side project. Celebrating the 30 years since they decided to play away from home, welcome to “Birminham” (pronounced without the ‘g”) all the way from New York City, The Tom Tom Club. No Phantom Fan Flingers present.

I want to start off by saying The Talking Heads were legendary. Inspirational. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They came in at 100 in Rolling Stones 2011 update to ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time.’ Formed way back in ’74, they were alternatively uber-cool during the late 70’s, early 80‘s going on to gain critical and commercial success. The list of stand-out great tracks are endless. But by the late 80’s the Heads were in hiatus, and by ‘91, they officially announced the end.

Married Heads couple, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth started dabbling with The Tom Tom Club in ’81, with the initial equivalent success in their own right with their self-titled debut own album. But commercial success was down there from there, the subsequent four albums, recorded sporadically over the years, decreasingly failed to make an impression. But for a while they influenced a great many people, their songs, especially ‘Genius of Love’ sampled by several acts – from Mariah Carey to Tupac Shakur. In 2010, they released ‘Genius of Live’ – one side live performance – second side of remixes.

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So while TTC in their own right may not the most successful band in the world, their history, influence and links to the Heads, should attract a reasonable audience. Unfortunately not. In The Library, we have 50-60 people max, including bar staff, the odd security guy, two photographers and me. Oh and Miles Hunt (one time voice of The Wonder Stuff).

With no support, we spend the initial hour standing outside, chatting to very friendly and amiable security dude, Adam (said I would mention you!). Popping into the sparse crowd in The Library just before 9, the lights go own and on they come. Frantz and Weymouth (complete with pigtails, spangly black mini dress and red bass guitar) are joined on stage tonight by Victoria Clamp on bass (dressed in spangly cream mini-dress), Bruce Martin on keyboards and percussion, guitarist Pablo Martin and (rather strange) DJ, scratcher, mixer guy Kid Ginseng.

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After a bit of a wobbly start, by the second song, ‘She’s Dangerous’ they were in the groove, and your head nodded and feet tapped along in time. ‘Punk Lolita’ dedicated “to our good friend Deborah Harry”. ‘L’elephant’ was slick, sound vocal harmonies – a song to bop along to. The band members were amiable, chatting along to answers from the crowd “How’s David Byrne these days?” “He’s got a lovely girlfriend.” A clear response to lack of communication and the lack of any likeliness that there will ever be a reformation of the Heads.

A question asked about if they remembered playing 70‘s Birmingham venue Barbarellas (now that’s going back some) Frantz: “I remember! Those fine Fewtrells gents who owned it!”

TTC are clearly at their best playing their own tracks, the covers “You Sexy Thing” and “Under the Boardwalk” just didn’t quite make the grade. The standout track of the night is indeed, their main UK hit – “Wordy Rappinghood” that made 7 in the UK Charts. Played tonight, in that old fashioned 12” mega remix style (oh those were the days), you smiled as you sang along.

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And for the final track, a treat, Heads track ‘Psycho Killer’. “It’s all too short – like life. Thank you Birminham”.

Weymouth and Frantz are now amazingly in their early sixties. And fair play to them for coming over the pond and playing seven dates across the UK, a tour clearly under-promoted for whatever reason, I can’t believe there wasn’t more Heads fans there. Sad to see, given their history. They’d have done better at a venue like The Glee. TTC clearly enjoy it, and as I said fair play to ‘em. At times tonight, when they get in the groove, the harmonies and the percussion based montages, you get a snippet of what they were like in their hey-day, and just how good the Heads were. The crowd gave them, especially Weymouth and Frantz, great respect and appreciation.

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For dedicated Heads disciples (and of course TTC ones) who weren’t there, you missed a treat. You should have been there. A chance to see just what was. However, I have to say, in balance across the large number of bands I’ve seen on their 30+ anniversary reformation / excuse for / back again/ remember us tours, with entrance fee on the door of £23 a ticket, plus no support, this was a pricey night for what you got. I really don’t want to say this for soooooo many reasons, but there are lots bands out there doing this type of retro-nostalgia gig better.

*****
Setlist:

1. Who Feelin’ It
2. She’s Dangerous
3. Punk Lolita
4. L’elephant
5. On & On
6. Under the Boardwalk
7. The Man with The 4 Way Hips
8. Suboceana
9. Don’t Say No
10. Kiss Me When I Get Back
11. Genius of Love
12. You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles)
13. Wordy Rappinghood

Encore:
14. Take Me to The River
15. Psycho Killer

*****
Listening:
Tom Tom Club (1981)
Genius of Live (2010)

Review – Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – Ken Harrison

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2 Responses to “The Tom Tom Club @ HMV Institute, 19th July 2011” Subscribe

  1. al neilson July 27, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Nice review Ken, but either I’m going mad or Tina Weymouth was the bass player in the black dress.

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