Some shows are a little out of your cannon. I’ll be the first to admit The Airborne Toxic Event is not a band I would normally go see. They are a good band and I have listened to them for a few years now but I just have never been enticed enough to drop dough on a concert ticket. Sometimes circumstances lead a person to strange situations and that is a great thing. The band was legit; this I knew, so I was in. The show started really early. An 8:00 start time is not something I am used to as a concertgoer at all. Being out the door by a quarter til 11:00 and on my way home was definitely an appealing thing though considering the hour and half drive I had ahead of me. The opening band that hit the stage at 8:00 was Kodaline from Ireland.
Kodaline is a basic four piece band that looked and sounded very European. The lead singer’s hair brought back memories of when Tears For Fears ruled the world and the band, and the group admitted they were suffering from jet-lag worked their way through a well received opening set. The crowd at Liberty Hall was limited to the floor while the balcony’s seats remained empty. The polite crowd that seemed to not know the new band from across the pond accepted them as a mellow, but formidable opener for The Airborne Toxic Event. Kodaline had the drum sound of an 80s band as well. The actual drum kit lacked the bass thump of most live shows and instead sounded electronic, softening the music. Their song “High Hopes” was likely the highlight of their set with its gentle sway and pleasing melodies. The songwriting was good but like many European bands they sounded a lot like other European bands, You could hear the U2, think of their softer, slower songs, and you could hear the heavy influence of bands like The Verve and Travis as well. The biggest correlation was easily drawn to Coldplay. If someone asked, “What does Kodaline sound like?” The easy answer is simply “Coldplay.” While Kodaline really lacked anything to set them apart from many other similar bands they still won over the half-filled venue and championed many new additions to their 57,000+ facebook likes I’m sure.
Soon after Kodaline; the sheet would be torn down from the backdrop revealing The Airborne Toxic Event’s giant 3-D bird with and arrow sticking in it and blood coming out the other side. This caused an eager roar from the crowd. The soundman would soak up some undeserved attention by playing each instrument a little too much while another stagehand would wipe off all of the band’s mics getting ready for the show to start. The Airborne Toxic Event has an edgy sound that screams East Coast to me even though they are from California. They have released two well-received albums including one that placed in the Top 20 on the Billboard charts in the US. They also have a third album that was literally days away from being released at the time of this show in Lawrence, Kansas.
The band could be classified as modern glam as they have strong pop sensibilities but still share some punk leanings. They would roughen up the crowd right away with the punky “Gasoline” and hit one of their more popular songs early with “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” During “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” lead singer Mikel Jollett would hop on top of the giant speakers on the side of the stage and hang over the edge far above the crowd while singing the song only armed with his microphone. One of the highlights of the band’s 16-song set would be the guitar driven and hook heavy “Changing.” The crowd favorite “Numb” would have been a candidate to fit in with Kodaline’s set because of the 80s rock feel of the track. The group would tease their new album by doing “Safe” and “Timeless” from the upcoming record but the audience seemed to already know them well and were not taken off guard.
What did surprise many attendees was the cover of The Magnetic Fields song “Book of Love” that started the three-song encore. An almost solo acoustic version of the sappy “The Graveyard Near The House” would follow adorned by a quiet and respectful crowd sing-along. Jollett would comment after the singing it that he “never thought anybody would know that song.” This comment seemed strange because he performs the song frequently at the band’s nearly 200 shows per year. The comment did make the crowd feel special though and help draw a connection between he and his audience. They would end with their song “Missy” and mix in a medley of great American songs by including Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and Bruce Spingsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” They would change a few words around in the medley cover, not changing the songs drastically but making them sound a bit off.
In the end the crowd was left satisfied and got a sprinkling of a few guitar picks as well. The band sincerely thanked the audience on a couple of occasions and didn’t seem to mind the half empty room at all. Jollett would gaze over the crowd as if it were Wembly Stadium acting both satisfied and amazed. The very young and mostly female audience returned as much energy as the band could have hoped for as well. Many shows don’t have the main band going on before 10:30 and on this night the band was saying their goodbyes at that point. There was nothing bad about it though. The group rocked like you’d expect any indie rockers to do and left the crowd happy and saving their money for the new album to be released within a week after of the show. Airborne Toxic Event at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS 4/24/13 setlist:
- Happiness Is Overrated
- Does This Mean You’re Moving On?
- True Love
- Something New
- Wishing Well
- Sometime Around Midnight
- All I Ever Wanted
- All At Once
- Book of Love (Magnetic Fields cover)
- The Graveyard Near The House
- Missy > Ring of Fire(Johnny Cash) > American Girl(Tom Petty) > Born In The U.S.A.(Bruce Springsteen) > Missy