A disclaimer: If you’re thinking of seeing Phantogram live and have photosensitive epilepsy, you should probably reconsider. That or keep your eyes closed during their set.
Dressed in all black and white, the keyboard-rock duo brought an extensive, electric lightning show to the Riviera last night. Hectic strobes accompanied the wall of sound. Both Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter had moments where the strobe lights seemed to emanating from them as they sang, before bleeding out into the crowd.
Playing an even mix of songs from their two LPs and several EPs to a sold out house, the pair injected energy into the crowd as they made sure to cover singles like “Fall In Love” and “When I’m Small.” Barthel’s airy vocals with occasional belting ballads were met with heavy instrumentals and boom-bap beats, while Josh Carter’s vocals come off as much more broken-down. What’s interesting about the duo is that depending on whether Barthel or Carter is leading the song, it can sound like two completely different bands. Barthel's tunes have much more pop energy to them, whereas Carter’s slow the pace and give the audience a chance to catch its breath.
The intensity in the theatre kicked up to full blast when the band performed their more recent songs from Voices, which are fueled far more by full-on hip-hop beats—not surprisingly, as it was produced by John Hill who has also worked with M.I.A. and Santigold. This twosome appeals to different demographics with its multi-faceted sound. They cater to pop, rock and EDM needs (as evidenced by the violently fist-pumping bro next to me) with ease as they swap between playing guitar, keyboard and RGB grid controller. The band did settle down the strobes (thank god) and the beat to ask the crowd to take out their lighters for the song “Bill Murray” (though it remains uncertain what it has to do with the actor).
The all-girl group TEEN opened the evening, performing psychedelic feminine ballads with attitude before handing it over to Phantogram.