2004 / Live Reviews / Music

Concert Review: Air Is Breathtakingly Perfect

French Duo Supporting Latest Release

MINNEAPOLIS — It could have been the space-age, keyboard-dominated melodies paired with a drum machine or maybe it was the shimmering, laser lights sweeping the stage, but watching French electronica outfit Air’s concert Wednesday night at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, you couldn’t help but feel that you were watching an early ’80s New Wave video recreated before your eyes.

Photo: Virgin Records

Photo: Virgin Records

Reconfirming fears of a flashback, by the second song of the set, “Alpha Beta Gaga, ” the fellas brought out a keytar (for those that don’t remember the ’80s, a keytar is a keyboard that is designed to look and be played like a guitar), which they’d use throughout the 14-song evening to perfectly recreate the album tracks.

The band, which consists of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel from Versailles, have become underground favorites with a couple of discs that combine electronic instrumentation and programmed beats with luminous melodies to create a futuristic jam band. Augmented by two sidemen, Air is touring in support of their fourth release, “Talkie Walkie,” And live, the band can perfectly replicate what’s on their albums. Air’s music, at its best, can heat up to searing crescendos. At their worst, the music’s moments of aimlessness leave your mind open to distraction.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that Godin and Dunckel aren’t natural showmen. Onstage, the duo, dressed completely in black casual men’s attire straight from Express For Men, remained steadfastly stonefaced. They didn’t look bored, but they didn’t look excited either. Music being performed has never looked more like waiting in line.

Typically, the more introverted the performers, the more elaborate light show and/or multimedia spectacle. So how were the lights? Extensive, but they weren’t Pink Floyd over the top. There were no Dadaesque home movies projected on the band members and no keytar’s spraying sparks. Stationed behind the group were four 10-foot tall towers, each with several lights. In sync with the mechanical precision of the band’s music, the robotic lights would scan the stage, rotate or flicker shades of red, yellow and green. For the particular high-intensity moments, a group of cornea-frying strobes were let loose (I promise I will never again go bleary-eyed to another concert after pulling an all-nighter).

And what about the music? The group took listeners on a journey filled with numerous peaks and valleys, but each selection was built and arranged to breathtaking perfection. While a quarter of the set was reserved for cuts from the new record (“Venus,” “Surfing On A Rocket,” “Cherry Blossom Girl,” “Run”), Air got the biggest cheers for cult hits like “Playground Love,” “Kelly Watch The Stars” and “People In The City,” the latter song climaxed with overloading keyboard solo that dissolved into Godin playing a Spanish acoustic guitar ditty.

Air’s fans clearly appreciated their attention to detail. Although the Orpheum was only half filled in, they made as much noise as twice their size, calling the group back for two encores. Any of the occassional lulls during the show didn’t matter. Attendees knew they were going to see Air and not Kiss.

Opening act duties were handled by the Mosquitoes, a cutesy New York hippie-rock group. The five-piece was dually led by an eccentrically-dressed female singer and lanky guitarist, but the singer commanded most of the attention. Occasionally singing in Portuguese, she pirouetted around the stage, performing various dance maneuvers, and taking brief moments to flirt with each of her bandmates. The poppy tunes were quite good, although her soothing vocals were often sidelined by the quick exchanges between the instrumentalists.

Remaining Dates Of Air’s Talkie Walkie Tour 2004:

  • April 22, Milwaukee
  • April 23, Kansas City, Mo.
  • April 24, Englewood, Colo.
  • April 27, Portland, Ore.
  • April 29, Seattle, Wash.
  • May 1, Phoenix
  • May 2, Indio, Calif.
  • May 3, Oakland, Calif.

For More Info:

Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2004 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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