It’s been nearly four years since The Ting Tings captivated ears with their debut record We Started Nothing. Wednesday night the UK duo returned to America with the fist US show of its North American tour supporting its sophomore effort Sounds From Nowheresville at the Showbox and showed no signs of rust during their 75-minute performance.
The group — drummer/guitarist Jules De Martino and singer/guitarist Kate White — delivered a playful and energetic set that challenged and defied my own definition of their music. After spinning both of their albums a few times prior to their show it was easy for me to classify their music under the broad umbrella of dance-pop. That classification immediately changed a few minutes after they took the stage because as much as The Ting Tings seem like a pop band on the surface, in a live setting the band is very much a rock group disguised in dance-pop dressings.
Sure they play over backing tracks — it would be impossible not to as a two-piece in order to replicate the layered sound that’s heard on record — and White occasionally sings over looped vocals and choruses, but despite what folks like Dave Grohl may think this doesn’t make them less of an artist or an inferior rock band.
While Grohl and others rail against the use of computers during the creative process maybe more artists like The Ting Tings is what rock ‘n’ roll needs in order to stay relevant in an ever-changing digital music landscape. There will always be garage bands, punk rockers and metal groups out there to carry the torch and keep rock music alive, but what makes groups like The Ting Tings so great and so unique is that they have figured out a clever way to package rock music to a younger audience. They aren’t being innovators but they are managing to do something fresh that’s entertaining and goes over very well live.
De Martino might not be the hardest-hitting drummer out there (although he does attack a kit quite fiercely) but he’s definitely one of the harder working drummers. When he wasn’t keeping the beat he could be found stepping out from behind the kit wailing on guitar or hitting up a sample or generating an electronic backbeat on a drum machine. He gets bonus props for the “Hey Ladies” cowbell sample during “Hang It Up.” Oh, and did I mention that sometimes he’s play guitar while sitting on his drummer’s throne and then proceed to play drums with his guitar strapped around his neck. Yeah, he does that too.
For her part White is an excellent counterpart to De Martino’s impressive versatility. She ruled the stage with a sort of spunky showmanship and flair that was as entertaining, if not more so, than the typical rock show I see on a weeknight the Showbox. She dashed all over the stage, singing from her knees, shredding on guitar and pandering to the crowd. By the time The Ting Tings finished up with “That’s Not My Name” the near capacity crowd at the Showbox was more or less left a sweaty throng of more than satisfied concertgoers.
Highly buzzed about Oakland artist MNDR opened the show with a brief 30-minute set. Her impressive vocals soared through the Showbox and never struggled to overcome the deep bass of her electronic dance tunes. She also joined the Ting Tings for an extended rendition of “Hit Me Down Sonny” which was one of the highlights of the night.