New York-based electro rock duo Phantogram stopped by the Greek Theater last Saturday, bringing their rocking, rollicking live show to Berkeley. The show was the eighth stop on a 33-city tour in support of their third album Three (2016), ending at Lollapalooza Berlin in Berlin, Germany. Phantogram played a festival-like set of material from Three, as well as earlier albums and EPs.
Comprised of guitarist Josh Carter and singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel, Phantogram has been recording music for a decade now. Over the course of their discography, Phantogram’s sound has changed, losing some of its original spacey, electro rock roots for more generic pop vibes. The progression of Phantogram’s sound happens smoothly over the course of their albums, but mixing old and new in their live set can make for a fairly jarring experience.
Nevertheless, Phantogram’s high energy stage presence won the crowd over, and warmed up The Greek on a cold Berkeley night. Highlights included “Same Old Blues” and “You’re Mine,” two rocking cuts off the band’s last album that showcases Phantogram at their best – loud, bold, and playful. In general, Phantogram’s music makes for a better listening experience in person. On recordings, Phantogram’s bombastic style doesn’t always come through, and the music can feel lacking at times. On stage, however, the band’s music takes on a new life as Carter and Barthel shred, wail, rock, and strut across the stage. Even a middling cut like Three’s “Calling All” (featuring the immortal line, “We all got a little bit of ho in us”) becomes a veritable banger when it’s not tucked away on an album.
Following Phantogram, Swedish indie pop group Miike Snow – of “Genghis Khan” and “Animal” fame – took the stage, delivering a confident set that, while front-loaded with all of their hits, showcased the band’s fun, infectious energy. Although the group is known primarily for their couple of hits, their polished live show made a case for greater success.
Phantogram continues their North American tour, headlining some dates with Tycho and Miike Snow, through the summer before making the rounds at European festivals this fall.
Written by Jordan Aronson
Photos by Arnav Chaturvedi