Friday, May 6, 2011

Live Review - Airborne Toxic Event @ Webster Hall

In the past six months, every time Airborne Toxic Event have arrived in New York City, it has been in the wake of a September 11 memorial or remembrance. I am not sure if the band has realized this but it is a fact. When they were here last fall it was with the Caldar Quartet on September 11 at Town Hall. The band returned this week in part of their “Origins Tour,” which sees the band revisiting the small venues in each city they started out in. Given the recent events of what has just happen in the news this week and President Obama arriving in New York earlier in the day yesterday to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, Airborne Toxic Event are unintentionally becoming the band that brings release and emotional rescue to the people of New York.

The band have been in town for a full week performing at places like Pianos, Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom and last night at Webster Hall, the final gig of their New York “Origins Tour” is tonight at Town Hall. For a band from LA, New York City must have been an interesting sight to be in this city given the headlines.

With the stage draped with curtains and six white umbrellas hanging upside down over the stage as if they were chandeliers, the band arrived on stage at 8:30 and looked geared up for a good time. Opening with “All I Ever Wanted” and going straight into “Numb” and then the magnificent opener of their debut, “Wishing Well,” it was as if a tidal wave just crashed into Webster Hall with the amount of energy released by both the band and audience. Singer Mikel Jollett said to the crowd “New York, I love you, thank you so much for the support these years and allowing us to do this.” For a band of this size and caliber and given their growing fan base, going back to these clubs is as much fun for the band as it is for the audience. The intimacy of these shows is important because it allows the band to connect to their fans closer than they already have. With the bombastic opening and what was shaping up to be a tour-de-force set list, the band began slowing things down with the middle section of their latest record, All at Once, which was released last week. Tracks like “The Kids are Ready to Die,” and “Welcome to Your Wedding Day,” slowed down the momentum and brought on a political tone as Jollett would discuss that these songs were inspired by soldiers who would write to the band and discuss their lives in letters and thanking them for their songs. Just as the crowd seemed to get a bit unruly, the band would bring it back full circle to the joy and amusement they started off with. Closing the first set with “Sometime around Midnight” and the epic “Innocence,” every jaw would hit the ground and would leave the audience begging for more. After a brief moment behind stage, the band returned firing out of a cannon and firing on all cylinders for the magnificent encore that had all of Webster Hall letting their hair down. Playing the fan favorites from their first record like “Papillion,” “Does this Mean Your Moving on?” and a special version of “Missy” that featured full covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” in the breakdown. As emotions and excitement were elevated through the roof, the band brought it all back down to Earth with a very inspiring performance of the title track of their latest record, “All at Once.”

While the Airborne Toxic Event is a band that has struggled with massive critical success, it seems to not faze them and it shouldn’t, simply because they are a tremendous live band that gives it 100% every time they play. This is a band not to be missed, especially on a tour of this nature bringing them back in the small clubs, because by the time they come around back to your town again, it will be in larger venues from here on in.