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Saturday, 27 April 2013 10:30

Concert review: The Airborne Toxic Event (with Kodaline) takes flight as headliners at the Pageant, Thursday, April 25

The Airborne Toxic Event The Airborne Toxic Event Autumn DeWilde
Written by Will Kyle
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The Dublin, Ireland four-piece Kodaline, previously known as 21 Demands, opened with a set of breezy tunes helmed by Stephen Garrigan's nigh-falsetto vocals. The sound played multilayered and grandiose, like a more alternative rock version of Mumford & Sons, with crashing waves of piano, acoustic strumming and vibrant bass.

Hints of Coldplay also vibrated through the underbelly of Kodaline's set, which included the bluesy, emotionally-tinged "High Hopes," the spacey "Perfect World" and the stutter-stop and image-heavy "Lose Your Mind." All the tracks from Kodaline's set are featured on their 2012 EP, "The Kodaline."

Kodaline closed with the chart-topping "All I Want," which began with acoustic work, Garrigan's crystalline vocals and a captivating build before the drums dropped in, complete with a definite European sway. Arpeggiating piano pushed Garrigan toward the chorus as he sang, "Our love was meant for movie screens."

Moon -- from 105.7 the Point, Greek Fire and Story of the Year --appeared on stage to introduce the Airborne Toxic Event. Soon, Mikel Jollett and the rest of the Airborne Toxic Event filed on stage to raucous cheers from the Pageant audience. Jollett strummed into "Gasoline" from the group's 2008 self-titled debut album. The song featured a furious Cure jangle and fantastic violin drops from Anna Bulbrook, whose hair, dyed platinum blond, swayed over her shoulders as she stomped her boots in rhythm with Daren Taylor's powerful drumming.

On "Happiness Is Overrated" Jollett alluded to his life-long boredom, singing, "I'm sorry I nearly lost my head." Steven Chen's lead-guitar stabs elicited fist-pumps and clapping from the standing crowd. Bulbrook jumped on bassist Noah Harmon's shoulders as he played and impressively babushka-kicked around the stage.

"Does This Mean You're Moving On" found Jollett off the stage and walking through the audience followed by a corpulent roadie who carried him with a hilariously tiny flashlight, fending off rabid fans and self-consciously checking his pony-tail holder to make sure his locks remained properly threaded. Apparently style and protection go hand-in-hand in the rock business. After the song, Jollett wondered, "How the fuck am I going to get back on stage?"

New song, "True Love" featured mandolin and a killer solo from Harmon. "Changing" found a giant crow behind the band illuminated with yellow lights and strobes. The image was complemented by an arrow from the right side, which pierced the crowd's side, sending a static splatter of blood blasting forth from the bird's other side. Gnarled, leafless trees stood on either side of the stage while heavy smoke effects billowed and danced around the band. Jollett sang, "I am a gentleman" in a satisfying staccato that gloriously mirrored the rest of the band's instrumentation.

"This Losing" found Bulbrook playing her violin next to Harmon as he pulled a long bow across the stings of an upright bass to create a sparkling orchestral backing to Jollett's deeply literary lyrics. "Half of Something Else," from 2011's "All At Once," featured bee-buzz bass, copious hi-hat, Bulbrook's violin and dulcet backing vocals. Jollett sang, "You have no idea 'bout me, do you?" as his hands played acoustic chords like cards from well-held bridge hand.

The Airborne Toxic Event continue through "Numb," "Safe," "The Storm" (from the band's new EP), "The Secret" and fan-favorite "Wishing Well." Jollett crooned, Standing on a bus stop/Feeling your head pop/Out in the night/In the kind of night/Where you want to be out/On the street, on the street/Crawling up the walls/Like a cat in heat."

This kind of writing landed him in the literary magazine "McSweeny's," next to Stephen King and other notables such as Liz Mandrell. Yes, Jollett is a verbal and lyrical genius -- his songs full of not only romantic power and well-fought emotionalism, but also an amazing literary streak.

This streak continued into "Timeless," which Jollett prefaced by explaining the genesis of the Airborne Toxic Event's name, telling the audience he pulled the line from Don DeLillo's "White Noise," the author's name garnering cheers from the audience. Jollett then uttered Tolstoy's name, which also netted cheers, then said, "This is a stupid game."

Jollett continued, informing the audience that at the time of the band's inception, he was obsessed with the poetry of death -- its romantic images and symbols. But as he grew and the band grew, Jollett experienced death first hand, realizing "how short life is" and that he "didn't want it to ever end." The experience ended up being the inspiration for "Timeless."

The Airborne Toxic Event continued with "Some Time Around Midnight," which beamed with orchestral power, "All I Ever Wanted" and closed with "All At Once." The band returned for an encore, including a cover of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love," which built from humble acoustic beginnings to full-band bombast.

"The Graveyard Near The House" closed out the band's encore with a affecting lyrics, more well-crafted imagery and careful instrumentation. The Airborne Toxic Event's first headlining show in St. Louis was an utter success -- here's hoping that next time the balcony will be open.

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