Thursday, February 18, 2010

Phantogram - February 17th, 2010

As evidenced by the night's opening act, Junk Culture, electronic music can be a serious bore in a live setting. While it is easy to see how Junk Culture ended up on the same bill as Phantogram, the two acts showed the two extremes of the genre Wednesday night. To be fair, Junk Culture was without a drummer, who recently got married, that may have flushed out the songs a bit. As delivered, it was a dj only set played in front of a projector screen showing off artfully looped images from the fifties and sixties; some of which worked better than others. Though there was clearly something there in the songs to enjoy, the excessively repetitious songs and general malaise involved with watching a dj at a rock bar were a bit much to take.

In setup, Phantogram's set was not much different. Sarah Barthel worked the dj gear and Josh Carter played guitar as a slick city night traffic scene played out on the projector screen for "As Far As I Can See". The blend of glossy horns, Barthel's soul-tinged vocals, and flickering guitar made fit wonderfully with the visuals. The two charmed the crowd, continuing the chilled start with Barthel gently cooing "Let Me Go", as the dynamic of dj and guitarist on stage really came together well. She proved to be a solid singer on "Mouthful Of Diamonds", where the guitar came alive a bit more, leaving you wishing it was a bit more noticeable on album.

Carter took over vocals for a bit, beginning with "Running From The Cops"; fuelled by a grubby bass line. The strangely compelling harmonies of the gently swaying "You Are The Ocean" and jittery, looping "Turn It Off" worked extremely well live. The set ended with the chilling vocals of Barthel on sexed-up "When I'm Small", with a heavy bass thump and clanging guitar flickering in the distance. The planned two-song encore, the only negative with the video production being a lack of spontaneity, concluded the hour-long set with atmospheric ballad "All Dried Up" and the sparse, guitar-led "Voices".

We have been warning you for weeks not to miss the show, and their vibrant live set and energetic stage presence proved us right. The nearly-packed venue all but ensures they will not be confined to the city's smaller stages for long. Phantogram would, and should, destroy a side stage at Lollapalooza this summer. The duo is a shining example of electronic rock done right.

As Far As I Can See
Let Me Go
Mouthful Of Diamonds
Running From The Cops
You Are The Ocean
This Is The Future*
Turn It Off
When I'm Small

All Dried Up

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