As the sound of the synth swelled, a roaring crowd welcomed trip-hop duo Phantogram to the stage. A distorted 808 and live drums thundered through the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto last night as Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel took the stage.
With a translucent sheet that reached from the roof to the stage floor, the sheath between the audience and the duo displayed an animated projection as Carter and Barthel rocked out to “Blackout Days”, a single from their 2013 album, Voices, where live drumming and Carter’s guitar skills brought the haunting track to life. Right after they launched into indie playlist favourite, “Don’t Move”, and with a bass guitar in hand, Barthel approached the front of the stage towards Carter behind the sheet.
The intro of, “Turning into Stone” got the audience screaming as Barthel manned the synth and Carter sang the first few lines. The track scored a black and white projection of stars that raced past the audience in a galaxy. The cymbals crashed and the kick drum thundered into a climactic end as the projection burst into rapid speed.
Formed in 2007 under the name Charlie Everywhere, the New York natives and childhood friends were almost telepathically aware of each other onstage, with the pair having just released their third studio album aptly named, Three, earlier this month. To the excitement of the audience, they performed songs from the dark, ten-track release. The curtain dropped for a high-octane performance of, “You’re Mine”, as lights on stage flashed in time as Barthel grabbed the microphone and lithely moved across the stage.
Carter seemed to be the straight man of the duo with his subdued stage presence and effectively balanced Barthel’s raging performance and vocals. He rocked a sweater under a gold chain, North Side snapback and slouched jeans. Barthel contrasted in a sleek black leather shorts and top with bondage themed jewelry and thigh high boots. Yet they somehow fit together as they greeted the audience together before Barthel yelled, “Let’s have some fucking fun,” as they launched into, “Same Old Blues”.
Carter’s vocals sounded captivatingly soft as he performed, “Barking Dog”. The rare and restrained solo was very different from Barthel’s gut-powered performance of “Destroyer”. She stood on a platform suited with a black cape covered in feathers, which suddenly filled with smoke while the screen behind her projected fire lit behind her.
A grungy twang of guitar chords opened for, “When I’m Small” as Barthel took to the synth once more. They closed with “You Don’t Get me High Anymore” and “Howling at The Moon” while the audience sang and danced. Barthel moved and thrashed on stage along with the fans, as they whistled and cheered as Phantogram exited the stage and promised to return to Toronto again.