The Ting Tings brought their Super Critical Tour to Houston on April 21st, just three years and a day after their last Houston show (fun fact!) in support of their latest album Super Critical. For anyone who doesn’t know The Ting Tings, were you even alive during 2008? Where were you the year when “That’s Not My Name” became pervasive and we were haunted with a list of names that weren’t, lead singer, Katie White’s? Where were you when White used the magic of repetition on “Great DJ” by repeating “drums” thirty-seven times over with bandmate Jules De Martino over beats that seemed to have been a preset on GarageBand? Preset or not, we still kept them on repeat.
With a triumphant return to the scene (using their sophomore album as the point of comparison, ok?), the British duo embarked on a tour to promote it. Promotion (prəˈmōSH(ə)n) n. activity that supports or provides active encouragement for the furtherance of a cause, venture, or aim. Now that we have the definition, let’s use it to talk about the lack thereof . Tuesday’s gig either showed a lack of promotion for the tour, it being low in sales because it was a Tuesday, or maybe the band is not what it used to be. The Ting Tings packed Fitzgerald’s upstairs room when they came three years ago, but that wasn’t the case this time around. The balcony was closed to the public at this show, and when that happens at a Fitzgerald’s gig, it can be assumed that not enough tickets were sold to fill the balcony. Did Houston get the short end of the stick when it came to The Ting Tings’ label promotions team? Is Houston not a profitable Ting Tings market? We need answers.
Doors opened 15 minutes late at 7:15 P.M., and even with 15 minutes of extra time, only about 25 people were in the venue. The first band was up to take stage at 8:00 P.M., and as 7 got closer to 8, I became nervous about the show knowing that this opening act was about to play to an empty room. I let my worries subside as more people showed, and KANEHOLLER took stage 7 minutes late at 8:07 P.M. KANEHOLLER is made of Jon Foster on drum pads and synths and Chelsea Tyler on vocals. Their roles switched twice during the set, so maybe I shouldn’t label their roles with such permanency. The band started off with a bang by opening up with a cover of Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman.” The duo made Simone’s iconic song into an indie-electronic sensual opening song that captivated the audience, but maybe this was detrimental; maybe shows shouldn’t be opened with covers–leave them for the middle or the end. With such a great way to start the set, I wanted something to match the greatness that they delivered with the song, but they never got close to it. Everything that followed only made me less excited about the set.
The set went on for 35 minutes and miraculously reached a second high point when Foster took the microphone to land some verses in a sultry, deep voice and weird hip-hop-y hand movements, but he had a dominating bro stage presence that was almost enough for me to wear a backwards cap and read through a badly-scripted scene where it makes me call him bro or dad. The rest of the set plateaued after that and continued with the same airy vocals backed by not-so-spectacular beats. Throughout the set I kept thinking, “God, this is like a cheap version of AlunaGeorge. This is sad.” To be fair, I listened to their studio-recorded stuff, and it’s better than how they presented it onstage. I still hella criticize it, but I at least like one song (check it out down below). It is still filled with lazy lyrics and production. I mean, really? You’re going to make the bridge to your song just the chorus but without the synth layers? They should have saved “Sinnerman” for last–their fault. Also, fun fact (I guess?), Chelsea Tyler is Steven Tyler’s daughter. Do you think the set would have gone better if Liv was in the band instead?
At 9:00 was when The Ting Tings were slated to appear, but they appeared at 9:10. Not sure if time discrepancies are worth noting, but I see that a lot on concert reviews, so why not do it too, right? The Ting Tings hit the stage and started the set with their latest single “Do It Again.” The duo was backed by a DJ who played any beats and spun their instrumentals on vinyl to really set the ’80s-’90s mood the band’s latest record vibes on.
The floor decently filled to see the show, but the balcony still remained closed to the public, so disappointed still remained that this show wasn’t sold out. Regardless, the crowd that did come to the show, showed immense love and appreciation for the British duo by welcoming them back to Houston with roaring cheers. It’s also good to note that the crowd was particularly young. There was a little kid on the front row that couldn’t have been older than 12. A lot of high school students and some who looked younger who were, I guess, middle school kids also filled the room. The remainder were people in their twenties coming back to see a band that shaped their high school and middle school days.
The band’s first song showcased Katie’s effortless guitar playing and playful jumping that set a fun mood on a Tuesday night. The ending of “Do It Again” perfectly and beautifully transitioned into “Shut Up and Let Me Go” and had the crowd screaming in adoration. The remainder of the night followed the pattern of new song-old song with two discrepancies where they decided to go old-old-new and new-new-old. The set only had 13 songs, so you can try and SAT-reason (or MCAT-reason? I don’t know. I don’t want to grow up.) your way through this one to find out the final pattern of the setlist.
The show went through the hits and new songs every time delivering an amazing performance showcasing Jules’ drumming and bass skills and Katie’s guitar shredding. The energy was truly built up for the performance of “That’s Not My Name” where Katie White delivered a cathartic rendition that sent chills down my spine and had me thinking, “how pissed is she that we are getting her name wrong?” As she sang the wrong names people have called her, my question began being answered by her only growing deeper in angst. “They call me Hell!” she screamed as she clutched the mic stand. “They call me Stacy! They call me her! They call me Jane!” she recited as her grip tightened around the metal base. “That’s not my name! That’s not my name! That’s not my *boop boop bad word* name!” she shrilled as she threw the mic stand and let it slam against the DJ table. “They call me quiet, but I’m a riot! Mary, Jo, Lisa–ALWAYS THE FU:):):):)NG SAME!!” she chanted atop the ledge of the stage to the crowd almost as if leading a revolution against people who forget names. The crowd sang along as she screamed. This wasn’t a performance; this was a therapy session.
After the song finished, the air was heavy with the anger Katie let out, but they didn’t let it dissapate and quickly began their encore set (which wasn’t announced at such. I only know it was the encore because it says so on the physical setlist.) The “encore” consisted of “Wrong Club,” “Green Poison,” “Hands,” and “Super Critical.” When they performed “Hands,” Katie sang, “Clap your Hands, if you’re working too hard,” and that’s when I began resonating with this concert on levels I never imagined. This show and I became one entity that had broken all time and space rules and formed a perfect mixture of sound and flesh. I began clapping my hands to let them know that I, indeed, have been working too hard. There I was at a concert on a Tuesday night before an organic chemistry lab final, but it suddenly didn’t matter with this song calling me out. “What are you supposed to do with two hands to get the life of the richest of man?,” Katie interrogatively sang. Girl, I don’t know, but I sure as heck know it’s not about to be these organic chemistry reactions at 11PM at a concert.
It’s good to say now that the only thing that annoyed me up to this point was that Katie’s roadie/assistant/manager/I don’t know kept coming onstage to turn on her pedals, turn off her pedals, fix her mic stand, put the mic on the stand, etc. Can she not do it herself? Can she really not fix and tighten her own stand? It’s a minuscule detail, I know, but it just made it look like “DIVA” was oozing from every pore of her body, but whatever, who am I to judge? I don’t cook chicken because I don’t want to touch it raw; I understand the feeling of diva.
They sang their final song and left the stage. What happened next was what made me realize that it doesn’t matter if a lot of people show up to a show because those that do are the ones who care enough and make it worth while. After the show ended, the crowd cheered for an encore (remember, they already played the encore, technically, but they didn’t advertise it as such), the house lights came on, and their roadies began dismantling their equipment. With drums and guitars already put up, the crowd still kept changing, “one more song! encore! one more song! one more song!” At this point, I just kept asking myself, what do they expect? An MTV-Unplugged-esque encore? A quick a cappella version of a song? What does the crowd want? I think that’s the same thing the band were asking themselves backstage. Ten minutes later, Katie and Jules emerged from backstage and descended to the floor and to the merch table. They didn’t say it was, but I think this was their alternative to an encore. They hadn’t met fans at the merch table on other dates, so I think this was their way of saying, “thank you Houston for cheering for 10 minutes even after our instruments were already packed up.”
The Ting Tings delivered a show that allowed people to let go of their life inhibitions and worries for at least 90 minutes and bring late 2000’s nostalgia to their modern sound. The career of The Ting Tings was declining for a while, but with a new sound on the rise and high-energy shows to deliver their discography, their career seems to be blossoming again. The Ting Tings conquered 2007 and 2008 with their first album, and they have the potential to be the band they once were and not become a “nostalgic act” or dwell in has-been territory. The band has shown a maturation in song-writing and song composition that shines light to a new side of them. They are showing that they are more than just an indie pop band. They are a name that cannot be easily forgotten and won’t be easily forgotten; they’re here to stay and make a mark with different approaches to their music, and, honestly, I’m ready for that level of slayage. I’m living for it. Let’s bring back The Ting Tings to the popularity they deserve. Let’s ting their tings.
Closing comment: I’m going to need 2 years of therapy to get me through the emotional turmoil that they put me through by not performing “We Walk.”