Phantogram took the stage Sunday night as the final act of Palace Theatre’s grand reopening weekend. Following headliners Atmosphere and The Jayhawks on Friday and Saturday, respectively, Phantogram closed the weekend out in tremendous fashion.
The band teased the crowd with the heavy bass drum beat that leads into You’re Mine and sent them into a frenzy when Sarah emerged with her first lines of the night. The duo was quick to reveal their playful, carefree stage presence when Josh pantomimed (Phantomimed?) the use of a rifle as he sang “I used to be a rifle, yeah I had my distance”. Chemistry between the two was apparent for the entire show, a trademark between the two on and off the stage. One concertgoer described Sarah’s dance moves as “the kind of white girl dancing I do in my bedroom alone” but she danced unashamed throughout the night, giving everyone quite an enjoyable show.
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Phantogram is a band that does not pull any punches and concedes nothing when on stage. Armed with a dynamic new stage setup it was clear they are out to impress on this tour. A two-level stage setup with Josh and Sarah spending most of the show on the lower level while Nick and Chris hung out upstairs. A white cloth hung behind each level of the stage and was used as a backdrop for the visuals that would be projected behind the band. Images of fire, abstract geometry, old home movies, and other effects decorated the stage. The vocal performances from both Josh and Sarah are about what you hear on the album, and in some cases even more impressive. Hearing When I’m Small live takes the song to another level entirely, Sarah embellishes her vocals wildly and impressively during the song’s outro.
Sarah will play bass and keyboards now and then. Josh handles guitar and some sample work during songs such as Mouthful of Diamonds. Nick takes care of guitars, synth, and samples for the rest of the show while Chris hammers the live drums. There is one section that could have been improved upon, especially with two guitarists on stage. My favorite part of Turning Into Stone comes after the first chorus when Josh re-enters with the vocals for the bridge over top a series of screaming tremolo picked notes. The guitar is removed from that part of the live performance, disappointing when there’s Nick with a guitar in back as well but he very well may have had his hands full too.
Boasting a capacity exceeding 2,800 people, the Palace was loud and exciting for all who attended. 3 sections of standing room on the lower level ensured that if you showed up a little later than the diehards you’d still be able to have an elevated sight-line above the rest of the early crowd on the venue’s lowest level. An enormous balcony seated a majority of the early birds, and when I say “seated”, I do mean it. There is traditional theater seating upstairs at Palace Theatre. A very long bar sits below the balcony behind the three tiers of standing room on the lower level. There seems to be a ton of space at Palace, though I couldn’t see if the crowd reached further than the bar itself or if it ended as you entered the “pit” section. The sound was excellent, I stood 4 feet from a bank of around 20 subwoofers that really rocked the venue almost to an uncomfortable level from so close. Palace holds nearly twice as many people as Minneapolis’ First Avenue and Phantogram still managed to sell out this venue early like they always do at First Avenue.
It will be interesting to see what kinds of acts come through to Palace, the capacity sits between First Avenue and nearby Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Undoubtedly there will be bands that would still prefer to play at the more historic First Avenue, but the allure of the newer (well, in a way) and larger venue may do good things for the music scene in Saint Paul.