Phantogram at Warehouse Live, 4/25/14
In the past few years, a ton of great synth-pop has come to market, but let's be honest: not all bands perform equally. In concert, Phantogram shows how possible it is for electro-based artists to create an impeccably executed performance that upholds their recording quality while infusing their live show with something altogether unique.
Friday night at Warehouse Live, the sound was mixed so well that it could have been a record, but enough distinctive elements were present that it was immediately evident why Phantogram is equally compelling live.
But first, the opening band, Brooklyn-based Teen, was just...weird. And not in the esoteric, eclectic way, but the "we are trying way too hard" way. Their sound is like one of those people whose facial features are individually attractive, but oddly mismatched when put together as a group; there was way too much going on. Attempting to isolate and appreciate the extreme variety of noises they produced proved frustrating, and nothing came together in any concrete way despite the relatively responsive crowd.
But Phantogram came on at 10:25 and immediately put their openers right out of mind. As a front woman, Sarah Barthel is commanding and genuine. She is an energetic performer, but didn't seem like she had to try to perform at all. No doubt she could sing with as much feeling in a studio space, a garage, a festival or in her car. It didn't seem at all forced, rather incredibly organic; Barthel really feels the music she presents.
Her voice is unique, breathy and ethereal, but tough at the same time. Compared to other female singers who sit so comfortably in the falsetto pocket, Barthel's soprano is rife with strength. But when her partner Josh Carter took to the microphone, he was equally impressive. Typically in a duo like this, there's only one singer. With Phantogram, fans get two leads who can both command the crowd.
The first song that pretty much the entire crowd seemed like it knew was the fifth, "Black Out Days" from their brand-new LP Voices. It's easy to get into the track; like most Phantogram songs, it seems like it would lend itself equally to cleaning your house, conversation or getting it on. Few synth-pop groups can boast that kind of versatility.
Review continues on the next page.