They Might Be Giants Keep Seeking Discoveries

A two-night stand in Covington allows fans to catch a “road-weary” band one night and a “relaxed” band the next.
John Linnell (left) and John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants

Photograph by Shervin Lainez

The career trajectory of alternative rock band legends They Might Be Giants came awfully close to spiraling out of control June 2022 when co-founder John Flansburgh was involved in a serious car crash. “I can speak for him,” John Linnell says about his longtime friend and creative partner. “He’s doing a million times better. He broke most of his ribs, and it was pretty dicey what happened. He was miserable, but he was back on stage a year later.”

And while some “residual achiness” may remain for Flansburgh, Linnell says that being on stage continues to be a healing experience for both the band and their devoted fand base that’s stuck with them since the early days of hits such as “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Ana Ng.”

The adored band and these adored songs that find themselves under the spotlight for a two-night stand May 14 and 15 at the Madison Theater in Covington as part of their much anticipated “The Big Show Tour.” And while the reasons are many for staying over an extra night, including getting older and an ease in the logistics of touring, the main reason is far more commendable.

“There’s a thing about doing a couple nights in one place where there are certain crazy uber fans who want to see you both nights,” says Linnell. “We are also making sure that the two nights are different from one another. We’re reaching into our deep catalog and pulling out lots of alternate songs for the different shows.”

Not only will the songs be different each night, but Linnell says that the band’s overall feel might be a little different as well. “If you want to see us coming straight off of traveling, come to the first night,” he says, chuckling. “If you want to see a relaxed and well-rested band, you come to the second night. It all depends on what you prefer.”

Certainly, They Might Be Giants seem to collectively prefer this two-night setup, as it also gives the duo and their backing band time to truly get to know where they are and who they’re playing for. “I would say that we’ll probably tell local, topical jokes in the second show to pander to the audience,” Linnell says. “We love calling out local stuff. People respond, even if it’s completely insincere.”

He laughs, but it’s a truth that comes with spending more than 40 years in a business where bands generally last a few months or so. And it’s this extended professional timeline that allows the still groundbreaking duo to delve into some deeper cuts this time around.

“We are pulling out a lot of old songs, some of which we haven’t played in a long time and some of which I don’t know whether we really fully deployed,” Linnell says of the touring band, which also includes a three-person horn section. “Some of this material we’re having to put back on the blocks and rearrange for this ensemble, and that’s a challenge, but we’re going to make sure we know how to play everything.”

Linnell chuckles once again, as if he can even hear him pandering to himself about growing older and the misconceptions that come with that. “We’re still fighting the good fight,” he concludes.

But with age also comes the realization that life is short and time moves far too quickly. So, on this go around, Linnell says he plans to truly enjoy everything the tour-stop cities have to offer. And he loves to experience all that is Cincinnati.

“I think we’ve been staying in Covington, basically across from Cincinnati, every time we’ve come to play, and it’s a pleasant thing to just walk over the (Roebling Suspension) bridge and wander around just in the downtown,” says Linnell. “I’ve done that a few times, and there’s always something else to discover, so I’m sure that’ll be happening.”

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