Friday, December 4, 2009

the Airborne Toxic Event, December 4 at Walt Disney Hall

Usually a band has to have more than one album out before they do a big, important show. The Airborne Toxic Event didn't have massive success with their first, self-titled album, at least not relatively, as they still played mid-way up the bill at big festivals but they were able to play places bigger than Spaceland at least. How they got to play the Walt Disney Concert Hall is beyond me. Even playing a hometown show at that place should have been beyond a a band that had had, at best, modest success (despite my well-publicized love for them). Not that it mattered what they did to get there anyway. It was the last date on a string of tours (this leg beginning near L.A., and of course I was there) and the band seemed excited and energized for a special show. The Disney Hall is where the L.A. Phil plays winter shows and it's not generally where rock shows happen but I know that there have been electronic acts there like Air and M83 in the few years since it had opened. I had never had reason to go there, which was a bit of a shame because it's a really nice place. Airborne could maybe justify a unique show there that night since they were playing with the Calder Quartet, which was mostly just having strings in the first half of their set, which was mostly acoustic. Then after an intermission (something else to set it off from the standard rock show) a high school marching band entered, playing, from the back of the place to the stage, followed by the band, and a cover of the Ramones' “Rock n' Roll Radio”. Usually they can just rely on the strength of the songs – and that's enough – but this time there was something infused into the performance, from guests to a feeling of joy and wonder at playing such a show (which was pretty good for me in particular since there wasn't much reason to keep seeing the same show I'd been seeing before). Honestly, if it hadn't have been a show at the Disney Hall, I might have skipped it (though, knowing me, probably still not). But I knew that this show would have to be something extraordinary. Besides, I'd never been to the Disney Hall and this was a good excuse to go. They played new songs and the surroundings gave the music a different texture than it sounded in a dingy club or the middle of a field. And it was an appreciative and audience, maybe skewing a bit older than their usual shows, perhaps relatives of the band. It set out to be a special show and it was. There are certainly worse ways to cap off a few years of a seemingly-neverending tour. The next time they play that place they can have the full symphony. Or, as their trajectory might suggest, they'll headline the Hollywood Bowl.

I seem to have misplaced the set-list that I recorded. However, I've read that they're going to release this show on DVD in a few months and it will be easy not see what they played, as well as experience the concert itself (on your TV screen at least).