by Sarah Rayner
The New York duo seemed blown away to be in London – the crowd welcomed them with ecstatic cheers. They added an extra London date following XOYO’s sellout, playing The Oval space the following evening, to some of the same returning fans.
Support – girl electro-pop duo the Hockeysmith – offered us some inoffensive, less then astonishing walls of indie pop sound enhanced by an imposing and absorbing stage presence, and offered an ideal warm up for the main event.
Phantogram stormed the stage to excited cheers and applause from the sparkling, fashion-conscious crowd, launching straight into their opening number – ‘Nothing but Trouble’, from latest album ‘Voices’ – with the verve of the seasoned stage performer.
The duo were all in black. Sarah Barthel (vocal, keys) dripped with New York indie-punk glamour in high waisted skin tight black jeans, imposing metal arm cuff and cut-off leather jacket, her sophisticated straight edged bangs never falling a hair out of place during the ninety minute plus set. Both seemed thrilled to be in the Capital, and the excitement absorbed into the music, in an immersive experience and captivating set.
The floor-trembling bass levels were somewhat too high to hear the sensitive subtleties of tracks like ‘Running from the Cops’, offering a whole different listening experience to hearing the record at home: the resulting walls of melodic sound were a rush in themselves. The band really came into their own with the obsequiously titled ‘Don’t Move’ – the duo’s most danceable tune yet.
Down tempo ‘Howling Moon’ – the only quieter song of the set added some welcome variety, breaking up track after track of heavy bass beats and penetrating electro riffs.
Josh Carter (vocal, guitar) delivered the opening riff to debut single ‘Mouthful of Diamonds’ (from debut album ‘Eyelid Movies’) on the encore to a visibly pumped up crowd who knew all the words. The apt closing track ‘Celebrating’ closed with a crescendo waterfall of crashing beats, guitar and Sarah’s full yet barely audible vocals. The band and the audience likewise, physically threw themselves into the sound.
The set was refreshingly broken in places by Sarah and Josh thanking their fans, and saying how glad they were to be in London, and they meant it. Sarah looked positively moved at the crowd’s response before she left the stage for the last time. It seemed as if they enjoyed the show just as much as we did.
Photo: Danny Garside