"We've been trying to come up with a name for the tour," Tilly and the Wall guitarist Derek Pressnall told the crowd at the half-full Club 770 Sunday night, "because every time we've gone on tour before we've had a name." Perhaps they are better off without the theatricality of a title. When the indie-pop group played Madison last year they emphasized their gimmick -- that all percussion comes from the feet of tap-dancer Jamie Williams. But Tilly and the Wall aren't just a novelty act. Sunday they proved it.
It was their best show in Madison yet. For the first time, the four other members of the Omaha five-piece demonstrated the confidence to emerge from Williams' shadow on stage. Where the music was disjointed only a few months ago, the band played cohesively. While their records have always been strong, they've finally grown enough to get each song's ideas across in both the studio and the nightclub.
Getting those ideas across is of grave importance to a band built around music that is youthful without sounding dumbed down. Their songwriting (perfected on May's Bottoms of Barrels) keeps a grownup's perspective on exuberant, juvenile-pop. But it's only a fine line that separates their boisterous music from being disorganized and their senior-prom nostalgia from feeling like junior varsity music. Their last show lost the distinction. On Sunday, they made it clear that the maturity they displayed on Bottoms of Barrels (if you can call a band built to sound childlike mature) now translates to their live performance.
"Don't tease," Williams replied, when Pressnall told a crowd shouting requests that "Hey Ya!" would be the encore. And "Don't tease" seems to be the new plan. In 2005, Tilly and the Wall teased a rock show. A year later they came through as advertised.