“It’s been three years since we’ve toured, and it means so much you all would still come out to see us after so long, and we love you all,” said Phantogram singer Sarah Barthel during their Thursday night show at Kings Theatre. It was a night of serious feels as their return to their New York home-ground was indeed warmly embraced by their hardcore fans. I remember first experiencing this band almost 10 years ago when I would hear them rehearse next door to the studio of my friend in Williamsburg, and I found myself falling for their songs before I even knew their name. I first saw them perform a couple years later at Terminal 5 shortly after releasing their breakout album Eyelid Movies, and they were already warming up some new material for their mind-blowing second album Nightlife. Similarly, this tour is intended to shake out the cobwebs and cook up some new material for a forthcoming fourth album.
Phantogram is an electro-pop duo of multi-instrumentalists Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter originating in upstate Greenwich, New York, and they chiefly made their name right here on the vibrant, pulsating NYC scene. Their sound has always had a swirling feeling of unpredictability, as they pivot between trip hop, electronica, dream pop, R&B, and rock with darkly foreboding atmospheres always looming overhead. Even though they may have recently embraced a sunnier California lifestyle, they proved at this show they have not lost any of their darker, more experimental edge.
Opening the show was local Brooklyn electro-popster VÉRITÉ, who’s blend of ethereal dream pop proved to be a great appetizer for the main course. She was a major shooting star on the scene a few years back, but she even admitted during her set that she hadn’t performed much in the last couple years. Still, she showed no signs of rusty sprits during her set, and her new material had a light and flowing feel that mixed in very well with songs from her 2017 album Somewhere in Between.
The duo of Phantogram first emerged as giant shadows against a shimmering net inside a giant glowing bed canopy underneath a line of mirrors hung high above, and this opening set personified a sense of intimacy that permeated deep into the heartstrings of the crowd and lingered throughout the show. They put on an impressive stage show, with lots of cool videos and moody lighting effects that kept me visually awestruck throughout. They also sounded surprisingly tight and boastfully harmonic, as they had not toured for a bit, so I would not have penalized them for being somewhat rusty. Sarah is a magnetically mesmerizing creature on stage, and a singer everyone should really see own a stage like a boss. I found it surprising that they played most of their bigger hits towards the beginning of the show, as they cranked out the classics like “Black Out Days, “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” and “Mouthful of Diamonds” early in the set. They also played some deeper cuts, like the Josh-driven song “You Are The Ocean” that he even admitted they had not played in several years, “since me and Sarah were driving around the country in a Prius just the two of us.” This time out they did have two backing musicians with them on stage, as they were joined by a synth and guitar player and a dedicated drummer, and they did a lot to help filling out their already ridiculously lush sounds.
During their shows Sarah sometimes plays little synth pad on a stand or slaps the bass, but she can usually been found strutting the stage and mesmerizing the audience as she sings, as Josh is usually playing the guitar, but sometimes also plays a small synth board, and even though he may be more of an introverted brooder when he sings his songs, he does really feel like the glue that holds the whole wild ride together throughout. These two singers usually had their own songs they’d tackle largely themselves vocally before, but their new songs seemed to signal a more unified front, with the two sharing singing duties on songs like their extremely catchy new single “Into Happiness” as well as other newbies like “Mister Impossible,” and especially on the experimental vocal twisting on “Gaunt Kids.” The show got extremely deep towards the end of the show, as Sarah got visibly moved and even broke down into tears when she talked about how her sister committed suicide three years ago, and that her and Josh were still gutting from the loss, as they took the emotion down into sadness and loss with a new ballad called “Ceremony.” The encore closer of “When I’m Small” did bring back up some of the dancing spirits, but it turned out to be a show full of deep feeling on all ends of the spectrum, and a concert I’m glad I did not miss.
Article: Dean Keim