Friday, April 12, 2013

Airborne Toxic Event and Nightmare Air at The Warfield - A Concert Review

Airborne Toxic Event
     Last night (April 11), Airborne Toxic Event visited The Warfield in San Francisco. The Warfield is an “elderly” venue, but it has aged well (unlike the neighborhood in which it resides). The capacity is approximately 2,300, which includes a general admission floor area and a reserved seating balcony. We recommend the venue.
Nightmare Air
     The opening band was Nightmare Air, a trio from Los Angeles. The members are Dave Dupuis (guitar/vocal), Swaan Miller (bass/vocal), and Jimmy Lucido (drums). The Facebook page of Nightmare Air evidences their pride in being loud. Unfortunately, they sometimes overtaxed the sound system. Thus, while Dupuis in particular intentionally introduced guitar distortion into the performance, unintended distortion surfaced too often.
     Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the performance by Nightmare Air was what appeared to be a genuine, exuberant appreciation the band had for being at The Warfield.  Twice Dupuis informed the audience that Nightmare Air is a “new band” with a new album. As our friend (Bret B.) pointed out afterward, it had the feel of a band member yelling almost disbelievingly, “Hey I’m in a band and people are listening; this is great!”
     "Icy Daggers" by Nightmare Air

     Then came Airborne Toxic Event. This was our third opportunity to see the band. Airborne Toxic Event is also a Los Angeles band. The members are Mikel Jollett (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Steven Chen (guitar, keyboards), Noah Harmon (bass, vocals), Daren Taylor (drums) and Anna Bulbrook (viola, keyboards, tambourine, vocals).
      The performance can fairly be divided into four segments. Segment A comprised the first five songs. The music was enjoyable, but it was the enthusiasm of Airborne Toxic Event that ruled the segment. We liked Steven Chen in other performances, but he seems to be more connected with the audience now. Mikel Jollett twice looked ready to leap from one of the higher speakers into the crowd, and based upon his energy, he sold the threats. He was “on.” Noah Harmon had a strong stage presence, and continues his signature stance in which he separates his feet further than most musicians, while playing the bass. The songs of Segment A were:
1. Gasoline
2. Happiness is Overrated
3. Does This Mean You're Moving On?
4. True Love
5. Changing

     In the four-song Segment B, the energy was not as high, but certainly acceptable. If there was a “knock” on the event, it is that unless a particular instrument was being featured at a particular time, the lighting for the musician was probably insufficient. On television, it is common for cameras to just follow the singer. In a live performance, concert-goers should be given the opportunity to focus wherever they wish. But the bottom line is that Segment B was a good experience. The songs were:
6. Something New
7. Half of Something Else
8. Numb
9. Safe      

      Segment C brought the songs we liked most. There was some concern, because the arrangement within the first song, “Wishing Well,” was more downbeat than in the album version. But afterward, things exploded. “Timeless” was solid. By itself, “Sometime Around Midnight” was worth the price of admission. It was during this five-song segment that the wisdom of adding Anna Bulbrook to the band a couple of years ago became very apparent. The viola and her voice add new dimensions to their performances, such as  when Bulbrook and Harmon provided a string-section intro to “Sometime Around Midnight.” The poetry of “All At Once” finished the segment with a very positive affect on the crowd.
10. Wishing Well
11. Timeless
12. Sometime Around Midnight
13. All I Ever Wanted
14. All At Once

     The final segment was the encore. We had never considered Airborne Toxic Event as a cover band, but the encore included songs originally done by Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and The Magnetic Fields. It was interesting.
15. The Book of Love (Magnetic Fields cover)
16. The Graveyard Near The House
17. Missy / Ring of Fire / American Girl / Born In The USA     
     "Timeless" by Airborne Toxic Event

     "Sometime Around Midnight" by Airborne Toxic Event

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