Chris Frantz - drums, vocals; Tina Weymouth - bass, vocals; Gary Pozner - keyboards; Mark Roule - guitar; Steve Scales - percussion, bongos; Bashiri Johnson - percussion, bongos, conga, timbales; Tiny Valentine - background vocals; Laura Weymouth - background vocals
The Tom Tom Club began in the late 1970s as a side project for the married rhythm section of the Talking Heads, drummer Chris Frantz and bassist Tina Weymouth, while bandleader David Byrne went off to make albums with Brian Eno and Ryuichi Sakamoto. They had an unexpected gold album and a couple of Top 40 hits with their self-titled debut album of 1981.
Tom Tom Club were not on a structured tour when they did this special appearance opening for the Grateful Dead at the sold out Oakland Coliseum Arena on New Year's Eve, 1988. The Club, as they have been called, was in the middle of recording their second studio album when the call came inviting them to do the show. Figuring it would be a good chance to preview new material for a large, open-minded audience, they jumped at the chance to play.
The evening began with a warm introduction from Bill Graham. The band then kicks things off with a spirited version of "Little Eva" before going through a set of material mostly from their forthcoming Boom Boom Chi Boom album, which was released four months later. It is clear the band was stoked to be on the bill of the popular Dead arena show, which placed them in front of the largest audience they had performed for up to that time.
The crowd sends back a rousing, approving cheer that sends the Club on their way to a killer set that included their 1981 radio hit, "Genius Of Love" and a powerful take on their other big hit, "Wordy Rappinghood." The show also features their quirky version of Bob Dylan's "She Belongs To Me," as well as a tender read of The Velvet Underground classic "Femme Fatale," which Tina dedicates to the late VU member, Nico.
Most of the rest of the set is comprised by tracks they were recording at the time, and even though they were new to most members of the audience, the response is overwhelming. Highlights include "Don't Say No," a funky up-tempo song featuring Asian Percussion samples, "Kiss Me When I Get Back" and "Suboceana," which became a staple for the band later on. Near the end of the show, Chris Frantz shouts into his mike "Free James Brown!" which gives us some perspective of what was going on at the time.
Socio-political contexts aside, this Dead-headlined night in Oakland proved to be an incredibly unique and interesting live concert experience, kicked off with a set by one of the more interesting, unique rhythm sections ever to come out of a band.