Production-heavy Phantogram rocks Tabernacle

Photo by Nikita Peker

On their international tour, Phantogram stopped in Atlanta for a lively performance at the Tabernacle on March 17. The electronic rock group released their third full-length album, fittingly titled “Three,” in Oct. 2016.

From the opening song “You’re Mine,” the stage presence and energy of the leading duo, Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, captivated the crowd. Even people in the balcony area were standing during the majority of the performance.

In some of the early songs, the Carter’s vocals were not well mixed; it was difficult to hear what he was singing. However, as the night progressed, this error was corrected.

The two level stage of Tabernacle was well utilized. Barthel especially made the most of the upper stage, occasionally moving up there to play the keyboard, sometimes in a cloud of smoke.

The production accompanying the music was intense though for the most part it complemented the performance. A large projector was behind the stages, and the video content changed song to song. The most striking use of this tool was in the third song, “Don’t Move,” where star lights moved in a way reminiscent of a time warp. The fire image on the projector during one song echoed the album cover of “Three.” A VCR style background built up anticipation to a song later in the show.

At other times, a Xbox Kinect was used to display live video of the band on the projector screen in a stylized manner, such as infrared. While the use of current technology is commendable,  the effect of the distorted video behind the musicians was simply distracting and over the top.

Despite these small missteps, the show maintained high energy throughout and reached a peak when Big Boi emerged on stage. Phantogram has previously collaborated with the Atlanta rapper in the project Big Grams, and Phantogram had hinted on their Facebook page about the reunion. In their second song with Big Boi, Carter rapped, and Barthel did back up vocals in all songs.

After that popular interlude, Phantogram continued with a balanced set list. While many bands touring after the release of a new album fall into the trap of playing nearly exclusively new songs, Phantogram did not disappoint.

“When I’m Small,” the hit off their first record “Eyelid Movies,” was well executed live with looping and a drawn out outro. One of their quieter tracks off the same album, “Mouthful of Diamonds,” was also successfully translated into the more intense and flashy concert that represents their current sound.

However, the hit “Answer” off of the new album “Three” was not as good live as on the record. This disappointment may have partially due to people talking over the song, a downside of the boisterous St. Patrick’s Day crowd.

The encore was rounded out by “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” a hit from “Three.” The concert encapsulated their changing sound and personality as they continue their rise to fame. Inevitably, some quieter songs, simple backdrops, and respectful crowds may be lost along the way.