The Palace Theatre hosted a sold-out crowd for the newly ‘First Avenue starred’ Phantogram last night. The duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, oftentimes describing their music as “street beat, psych pop,” brought a polished and artsy design to the tour. The set was filled with an even distribution of songs from their last 3 albums, along with a few newer songs. From half disco-ball hand paddles to a large, see-through curtain, there was plenty to see and hear.
Kicking the evening off was the Brooklyn based electronic duo of Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance. It was the group’s first time performing in St. Paul. The house music duo showcased a combination of bass-heavy, mid-tempo dance tracks and smoother, more atmospheric post-club moody songs. The 11 song set kept the audience engaged, while their lighting backdrop slowly awakened to provide a visually interesting set.
The mood of the music progressed as well. The first half included “Talk,” “Back Down,” and “Nothing But You.” Designed to pull in new listeners, these more pop-forward songs highlighted the crunchy guitar and synth-driven sound. The bounce of energy and intensity increased by the time they went into “Listen To Me,” “All I Want,” and their most played song, “Tearing Me Up.” The largest reaction came from their cover “Breathe” by The Prodigy. As the set came to a close, they dug deeper into their house beats and the heavier tracks that define their overall sound and vibe.
Taking the stage behind a large see-through curtain, Phantogram teased the audience with “News Today” and “Black Out Days” before emerging to the front of the stage. Visually, the curtain cast shadows and absorbed colored lighting that hazily entranced the audience. Sarah was dressed in a shimmery silver coat and top, with fishnets and white boots. The lighting glanced and reflected off her outfit.
Early in the set, Phantogram played crowd favorites “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” and “Mouthful of Bees.” Their trademark swirling guitars, airy vocals, and spacey keyboards had the audience grooving and singing along. The next song, “Into Happiness,” saw the design of the stage transform as the large screen behind them came on. A mix of colors and designs, the backdrop furthered the experience.
Before playing “You Are The Ocean,” Josh shared they hadn’t played the song for almost 7 years, since back when they were at 7th Street Entry. Later we heard Sarah announce they had just received a star on the side of First Avenue. It drew loud applause as she stated how much it meant to be on that building. It was an affirmation of the importance of smaller venues and the potential that any band has to grow and succeed.
There were some visually stunning moments from the evening that should stick in everyone’s head. Their newly released song, “Mister Impossible,” had Sarah in back dancing in strobe lights. The effect and feel worked perfectly for that song and was a striking moment. Before performing a new song, Sarah shared that her sister passed away during their last tour. She confessed it’s still hard and pleaded that none of us she ever “go away.” She reminded us to remember that so many people have dealt with this and we can all speak and support each other.
This led into “Ceremony,” where Sarah stood on top of a raised platform with paddles on her hands. The paddles had smaller half-disco balls on them. Throughout the song, she channeled the light. She commanded the attention of the audience. It was a huge defining moment of the show, one that her sister would be proud of.
Phantogram’s music requires you to push the volume up, crank the bass, and literally feel their art. Standing in an ocean of people, the waves of music resonating through us during their last two songs, “Answer” and “When I’m Small,” felt important. Phantogram is a band who thrives on making their live shows stunning and getting the audience to reverberate that energy long after they’ve left the venue.
- News Today
- Black Out Days
- Run Run Blood
- Don’t Move
- You Don’t Get Me High Anymore
- Mouthful of Diamonds
- Into Happiness
- You Are The Ocean
- Howling At The Moon
- Gaunt Kids
- Calling All
- Cruel World
- Mister Impossible
- Fall In Love
- When I’m Small
- News (resprise)