New York – After a bout of laryngitis, a cancelled show in Pawtucket and several days of vocal rest, vocalist/guitarist Mikel Jollett was given a clean bill of health and just in time for The Airborne Toxic Event’s show at Terminal 5. The indie rock band made sure their return to the stage was a triumphant one and put on a long and lively show that proved that, despite being on tour for the past month and half, the band was nowhere near winded.
They began on a high, vocally challenging note with “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” off their sophomore album All At Once. Jollett belted through the song with ease. He barely rested between songs, launching right into “Gasoline” and “Changing.” Only several songs later did he mention being out of commission and not in the way you’d think he would. Instead of taking a moment of banter to simply mention being sick, Jollett took the center stage mic and stretching the last syllables of the chorus into what felt like an impossibly long vocal run. The audience quieted, listening in awe then broke into cheers. Jollett finally took a breath and with a laugh said, “Fuck you ‘cause that took three days of tea.” He continued laughing and added, “Fucking throat coat…” The audience continued to cheer. Satisfied with their response, Jollett pointed to a rowdy cluster down in front and said, “These people are losing their minds” and then picking up his guitar again, he yelled “You guys ready?” The band transitioned seamlessly into “Happiness Is Overrated” to riotous applause.
The energy continued for “Something New,” a song off the band’s 2009 debut. They played with equal vigor old songs and new songs, showing no sign of boredom with their old material. Where other bands might have swapped in a cover, Airborne played hybrid songs that mashed together their work with that of others. Jollett reinvented “Missy” adding in sections of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”
It was an endlessly energetic show. No one wants to listen to a band that sounds like they’re sick or sick of being on tour and Airborne wasn’t showing signs of either. The band, despite being in the middle of a lengthy tour, made the show exciting for everyone, including themselves. Instead of playing purely a rundown of their most recent album, the band played a selection of songs from every one of their releases. They even threw in the B-side “The Winning Side.” This variety to the set list is perhaps why the band showed no sign of tour fatigue. And having new material to showcase helped keep things interesting for everyone involved. They played their newest singles, “Hell And Back” and “Wrong,” as well as “California,” an unreleased song.
Jollett also took the opportunity, during “Hell And Back,” to climb the Terminal 5 balcony using the sprinkler system as a foothold. He dangled over the audience, asked if they would catch him should he fall and finished the song with one foot hanging over the edge. Eventually he pulled himself over the railings and returned to center stage, remarking simply, “That shit was dangerous.” That wasn’t the end of the antics for the lead singer. Jollett also jumped the barricade during “Does This Mean You’re Moving On” and wandered into the audience. He grabbed a concertgoer’s iPhone, filming and snapping pictures while he sang.
The other band members didn’t hold back having fun either. During “Missy,” violinist/vocalist Anna Bulbrook stage dived and was carried out of the audience before being passed back to the stage. The entire band took part of a percussion solo during “Elizabeth,” swapping their usual instruments for shakers, drums sticks and tambourines for several measures crowding around drummer Daren Taylor’s set. Taylor got his own moment to shine during a good ol’ fashioned drum solo during the band’s last song.
None of these antics seemed gimmicky. They felt well timed and purely for the fun of it. Airborne’s songs have these fun, jaunty breaks in them, instrumentally speaking, which in a live setting provide the perfect opportunity to scale something. The band utilizes them and uses those measures to run around stage and enjoy themselves. As an audience member, it was nice to see the band having fun, because lyrically Airborne can be endlessly depressing. Jollett touches on the nature of their music in “Elizabeth” when he sings, “All your songs are sad songs / Why do you always have to make me feel like shit?” It was a comfort of sorts to see that, regardless of the subject matter and tone of their songs, Airborne puts on an amazing live show. They overpower all that sadness and make songs like “Numb” and “Sometime Around Midnight” fun to dance and shout along to. If you haven’t yet, go see them on tour, because if Tuesday’s show was any indication they will always keep it interesting and never run out of steam.
(Ed., See how much the band has developed by reading this live review from February 2013.)
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