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The Airborne Toxic Event Play New Music at Webster Hall

January 16th, 2013

The Airborne Toxic Event- Webster Hall – January 15, 2013


The Airborne Toxic Event took the stage beneath the smoke, flashing lights and watchful eyes of the staff of Island/Def Jam employees in the VIP balcony at a jammed Webster Hall last night. It was worth remembering the last time they did this prestige part of the trick—the twist where they return with a new album and run off a string of shows promoting the promotion of it—they were on an Origins Tour playing all the small clubs and rooms they had played before they were a major-label band. But this time, they’re beginning closer to the end, with two sold-out dates at Webster Hall and a new single, “Timeless,” out on the same day as the first show. Perhaps less concerned with beginnings, the band proved no less engaged in the moment, as lead singer Mikel Jollett indicated near the end of the set, “We’ve played something like 800 shows now…. This band is our life. We don’t have anything else, and it means a lot to us.”

The second part, a statement Jollett has used as a sort of benediction with audiences ever since the band was playing to a half-full Piano’s in 2008, remains the soul of their charm, an ability to connect with fans and rooms of all sizes with a practiced and quite real magnanimity. The Airborne Toxic Event opened with “All at Once,” a string-soaked track from their second LP of the same name that communicates the band’s practice and theory of writing rock songs that drip with a sense of becoming, like everything is happening all at once. In alternating fashion, material from forthcoming LP Such Hot Blood filled the middle of the set: A song that might be called “Out Now” based on its chorus, played third, “The Storm,” played fifth, and lead single “Timeless,” a song that is about to be almost everywhere, played seventh. In between, the band inserted older favorites, “Half of Something Else” and “Numb.”

Closing with the darkly life-affirming “Sometime Around Midnight,” the Airborne Toxic Event returned for a four-song encore featuring a cover of Magnetic Fields’ “The Book of Love” and the requisite closer, “Missy.” This last song, the final twist, did take the audience back to the beginning, one of the band’s earliest tracks and the song with which they close every show. Despite the label execs in the balcony, the sleeveless black clothes, the renegade haircuts and the radio-promotions team that will push “Timeless” into Alternative Radio rotation, this part of the band, this essence, remains untouched and entirely the same. It was just all happening in a larger room this time, a loud and long beginning to the next movement. —Geoff Nelson

Photos courtesy of Stephanie F. Black | www.flickr.com/photos/blackfrances