The Airborne Toxic Event seem to have found a way to mirror the arc of their self-titled debut in live performances by starting off restrained and building the energy with each new song. It’s a choice I was unsure of at first, as I found a couple of the songs slow.
But as the show went on, much of it highlighted with string accompaniment by the Calder Quartet, I found myself enjoying the overall scope of the show, and just allowing it to envelope me in the atmosphere of the evening.
Leading off with the album’s first track “Wishing Well,” the band came out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Everyone on stage was on mark and ready to give the audience the best show they could.
They even included a couple of new tracks off of their forthcoming album. Those came earlier in the show, and followed the first half’s restrained feeling.
It wasn’t until a medley at the end of the night’s first set that I felt like ATE really brought the high-octane energy I was expecting.
In the new tracks that were played, I was finding a lot of Bruce Springsteen influence. I thought it was fitting, then, that during the medley they covered his song “I’m On Fire” from the Born In The U.S.A. album. It was a great mashup of their own song, “Missy,” Springsteen and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” It was the perfect set up for the set that followed after the intermission.
Fifteen minutes after they left the stage, ATE reappeared without the Calder Quartet, and full of piss and vinegar, to rip through some of their more guitar-driven rock songs. “Gasoline” was the highlight for me. I really love the guitar work on it, and the band seems to really enjoy playing it.
Things got kinda crazy during the second set. At one point three members of the band were walking on audience members’ tables. Mikel Jollett was spraying beer on people and throwing water bottles deep into the audience. He and the band made sure the audience was having a good time, and they fed off of the crowd with great delight.
The last two songs of the second set, “Sometime Around Midnight” and “Innocence,” brought the Calder Quartet back out on stage to add some depth of emotion.
While I would have switched the order around and played the huge radio hit last, Jollett said “Innocence” was the song he wanted people to hear when he started the band. So I guess he went with the more personal choice.
It didn’t really matter to me, though. Both songs are beautiful, and I was happy to hear them in any order.
Overall, they played a good show, and it’s the only rock concert I’ve ever been to with an intermission.
Park West is a great venue, and I don’t understand why more bands don’t play there. The sound system is decent, the stage is nice and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I look forward to going back there sometime soon.
I doubt the band I see there next will have a performance as thought out as ATE’s show, though. They’re professionals that love their work. And we, as an audience, can feel and appreciate that.
- Check out my video interview with The Airborne Toxic Event.
- For more videos of their Park West show, please see Chicago Tunes’ YouTube page!
The Airborne Toxic Event performing “Wishing Well”
The Airborne Toxic Event performing “Gasoline”
The Airborne Toxic Event performing a medley