Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Man With The Four Way Hips

The Tom Tom Club were playing in Dublin. You may remember these people as being the two members of Talking Heads who are neither David Byrne nor Jerry Harrison – Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz. I was undecided about going to this. On the one hand, the music the Tom Tom Club made back in the day is amazing – or at least their first album is. OK, so you do get a bit of lamer white guy getting down with Chris Frantz's vocal contributions (particularly in the live Tom Tom Club track on Talking Heads' Stop Making Sense), but you can't knock the toe-tapping nature of the music. The fear with things like this, though, is that seeing them many years after their heyday will mean you get a band that are a sad shadow of their former selves – tired oldarses going through the motions to top up their pension funds.

That kind of fear kept me from buying a ticket for the concert in advance. However, I had heard good reports on the grapevine about recent Tom Tom Club performances, and check on YouTube suggested that they still have it. So on the day itself I decided that I would go, and was lucky enough to meet someone on the way who had an extra complimentary ticket. So I got in for free – wahey.

I felt obliged to repay my generous friend by buying pints in the bar. This meant that we missed the support band. At the time, this did not concern me, as the rubbish support act at Richard Thomson (see later) had put me off whatever rubbish local act Vicar Street would serve up. However, I later heard a lot of good things about the support act from people who did see them, so I will quickly mention them. They were called Tieranniesaur* and featured a lot of boys and girls hitting things as well as playing more conventional instruments. They seemed to be both avant-garde and fun at the same time – an ideal support act for the Tom Tom Club, in other words.

While waiting for the Tom Tom Club to come on, I couldn't help but notice that the venue was not exactly full. And from talking to other people it seemed like hardly anyone had paid in, which could have proved that we were in for a concert of bored yappers. Yet it was also clear that everyone there was rather excited about seeing the band. The auditorium was filled with a sense of expectation from the people present, who all were hoping that this would be an exciting night out rather than an embarrassing example of a band pissing on their legacy.

And actually, yes, this was amazing. The band are as funky as ever. The line up now is Tina Weymouth on bass and vocals, Chris Frantz on drums and occasional "James-Brown!" vocals, another woman called Victoria Framm on vocals and occasional guitar, some young lad on keyboards, guitar, and percussion, and another young lad (who turned out to be the child of Weymouth and Frantz) on turntables. They played a load of different tunes, not all from the first album which meant that many of them were new to me – but all of them were tracks that you could not keep your feet still to. The place was soon full of people dancing their little socks off and smiling like lunatics.

I am going to have to investigate later Tom Tom Club albums, as the first one does not have what proved to be a complete stomper live – 'The Man With The Four Way Hips'. This led to some discussion – what would it mean to have four way hips? They would go forward and sideways – so that's two, but what are the third and fourth? The vertical axis might somehow be a third, so would the fourth way be an ability to move your hips through hyperspace?

Back to the concert - one thing I was really struck by was how uncompromisingly old the band were. OK, a lot of people are old, but they are usually a bit more restrained than this or else they are frighteningly made up and plastic surgeried. But Tina Weymoth and Victoria Framm were completely unrestrained and yet seemed largely untouched by masklike makeup or the surgeon's knife. And old people do not usually wear tiny dresses and funk out like they did. If you have ever seen Stop Making Sense you will be aware that 1980s Tina Weymouth was one of the great heart-throbs of New Wave – well she still has it, but in a mad for it older lady kind of way**. Chris Frantz, meanwhile, has greyer hair but generally looks surprisingly like he did back then, though he was giving it a bit less of the "James Brown! James Brown!" – maybe with the wisdom of age comes a certain self-consciousness. Which was a bit of a shame, as we were all looking forward to agreeing that the late Mr Brown is still the Godfather of Funk (y'all), and that this information would need to be checked out.

After the show I hung around for a drink or two. And then, in a stunning stroke of good fortune I was leaving the venue just as Tina Weymouth was. So I got to tell her that the show was amazing – which means that now I am her best friend in the world.

An inuit panda production

Wordy Pandahood

* Their name comes from main member Annie Tierney, who was in almost famous Dublin band The Chicks, whose unreleased album was produced by the Royal Trux.

** I hope I am not coming across like the kind of gentleman who interviews Helen Mirren.

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