Last night I saw The Airborne Toxic Event for the fourth time in as many years. I’m hoping that number gets a lot higher in the years to come. Their set is always a pleasure to cover because they seem to enjoy performing for a crowd just as much as the fans enjoy seeing the band. At one point last night Mikel Jollett said that this was something like the 910th show they’ve done as a band. It shows, too. The chemistry between band members is great, and it feels like they’re constantly trying to surprise one another as much as they are the audience.
I was surprised that the band kicked off the set with three songs from their debut album. Usually you’ll get at least one song from the most recent album right at the top because that’s the record they’re playing to promote. Airborne Toxic Event seems to be pretty in tune with what their fans want to hear, though, as the crowd was going wild from the first note of “Gasoline.” We were seven songs into the show before they finally broke into Some Hot Blood‘s “Bride & Groom.”
One thing I’ve always appreciated about the experience of seeing ATE live is the amazing energy they give off. By the time we got to the third song, “Moving On,” Mikel, Noah, and Steven were all standing on the rails dividing the stage from the audience and nearly inciting a riot as people tried to get close enough to touch the band members.
There’s always a lot of highlights during ATE shows, but what I took away from last night was just how good the songs from All At Once are live. That album doesn’t get the respect it deserves, and I hope after some more time has passed people go back to it and give it another chance. 5 of the 23 songs that were played came from AAO, and they may have been my 5 favorites. I particularly enjoyed the version of “The Graveyard Near The House” that was played during the encore.
Speaking of the encore, I’m looking at the set list here and I think there was a last minute change. Instead of “Book Of Love,” Anna and Mikel stood alone on stage and played “Duet” together. I’m glad they made that change, because I really love that song. ATE encores are always a lot of fun. I knew they’d do a medley at the end because that’s how they’ve done it every time I see them. They always do it during “Missy.” So they started with that, then around the halfway point they segued into “Ring Of Fire,” then “American Girl,” and finally “Born In The U.S.A.,” before finishing out the rest of “Missy.” They really do an amazing job of transitioning from one to the next.
My favorite moment of the whole thing was when Mikel was doing band introductions. He led off with announcing that this was Noah’s favorite part of the show because it’s the only time he gets to do a long bass solo. Then Noah played a blistering solo and leaned out over the crowd on the rail. Anna was introduced and played some violin, Steven wasn’t holding his instrument so his intro wasn’t great. But then when Mikel introduced Daren on the drums he said, “You know, the problem with rock music…it isn’t Pandora or Spotify, or iTunes or mp3’s…it’s that there aren’t enough DRUM SOLOS! Am I right???” And then Daren went off on a furious drum journey, but he ended it on the electronic drum, playing the lead in to Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” I literally couldn’t stop smiling.
If you have the opportunity to catch The Airborne Toxic Event live, don’t pass it up. Even if you don’t dig their albums, their live show is a lot of fun. Chances are they’ll be in your town soon. They’ve been touring basically non-stop for the past few years. You’d think they’d get tired of the grind, but they seem to get a lot of joy from playing these songs for their fans. You can check out all their albums, including their latest release Such Hot Blood, on Spotify. I would highly recommend listening to the live album they did with The Calder Quartet at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
For more photos from the show, check out the album on our Facebook page!