Tom Tom Club tours the nation in support of live album

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Ethan Long
Journal Staff

At this point in musical history, funk has faded out of the pop charts. However, on Sunday, October 3, the Tom Tom Club proved to their audience that their genre-bending funk-fueled music can still make an entire room want to jiggle their bodies. The band, currently touring, is supporting their latest release, Genius of Live (2010, Nacional Records), a collection of live recordings representing their fast, percussion-based live shows.

Starting as a side project by then Talking Heads’ bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz, the Tom Tom Club’s sound dedicated itself to rhythmic action along with hip-hop style vocals. While the Talking Heads grew in popularity throughout the 80s, the Tom Tom Club was able to achieve smaller success on the U.S. dance charts with number one hits “Genius of Love” and “Wordy Rappington”. Touring nationwide, both bands kept Frantz and Weymouth busy. The Tom Tom Club even appeared in the Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense”, playing “Genius of Love”. Eventually, the Talking Heads were silenced and the side project could no longer be considered “side.”

Along with marriage and two kids, Weymouth and Frantz continued touring and recording music with a slew of band members who have come and gone as time has progressed. In its current incarnation, the band includes Weymouth and Frantz, as well as different artists from different backgrounds.  Mystic Bowie, a Jamaican-born singer, provides hip vocals as well as auxiliary percussion, a part that is shared by various members of the band, including keyboardist Bruce Martin. Victoria Clamp provides extra vocals, while turntabalist Kid Ginseng adds an updated club feel; scratches and all. Fuzz, who opened with his band Caravan of Thieves, worked magic on stage, playing his guitar with as much soul as rock greats.

Though some members of the Tom Tom Club have played at the Paradise Rock Club before, this was their first time since the club underwent a major renovation. Due to a support beam, infamously known as “the Pole”, obstructing the views of many fans and bands inside the venue, work was done to move the stage fifteen feet to the left, so that the entire stage could be visible from the back.  Along with this change, the floor was also opened up. The venue has been modified to the point where veterans of the scene may be shocked once they enter.  The club looks brand new, and the Tom Tom Club performed a young and energetic show that made one feel as if they had jumped back into the early 80s.

The entire band worked as a team on stage, creating funk harmonies and beats together, moving the crowd in front of them to the point of spilled beer and smiling faces: everything a great show should be. Even though some members might be considered “legendary” by the press, ego has gone to their heads. Frantz, who has been ranked on “greatest drummer” lists, sat in the back, doing what a drummer should do: making sure that the downbeats are always covered.

The entire set included fast-paced, exciting versions of songs such as of “Genius of Love”, “Wordy Rappington”, as well as covers of “Under the Boardwalk” and “You Sexy Thing”. Most of the songs played included long, drawn-out jamming that one could possibly listen to for the rest of their lives and be happy. While the jam bands of the millennial generation have become droned and easily predictable, the Tom Tom Club kept it fresh for every second they were on stage.

As an encore, the band came back on stage to perform two songs from the Talking Heads days. “Take Me To The River” evolved into a sing along, but the crowd’s voices became twice as loud when the band performed “Psycho Killer,” off of Talking Heads ‘77 (1977, Sire). The song starts with Weymouth’s infamously intense bass riff, which she mimicked perfectly more than thirty years after it was first recorded.

Music today sees collaboration and sometimes genre-bending, but no one does it like the Tom Tom Club does. The band sees no barrier between music genres or styles. The best bands out there are the ones with their own developed sound, and that’s exactly what the Tom Tom Club proved last Sunday.