6/21/14 -House of Blues

It was a summer evening in Boston and light was still peaking through the doors of the House of Blues.  But on the gloomy stage above, The Range – James Hinton, a 26-year-old Rhode Island based producer – was barely illuminated by two narrow projector screens. The visuals on the screen showed nothing but patterns of splattered monochrome colors, and complemented his moody footwork-inspired tracks.

The Range mostly played tracks from his surprisingly successful first full-length album, Nonfiction. Standouts like “Metal Swing” and “Jamie” were relatively unknown gems from last year. But at the House of Blues “Loftmane” stood out most. It isn’t electronic music that gets your heart racing with heavy bass, but it’s soothing, pleasant, and keeps the crowd swaying back and forth, There are no massive drops, but sophisticated, repetitive melodic motifs that evolve with sampled vocals from obscure sources. And from these sampled vocals, which he always sang along to with precision even though those vocals were obviously not his own, came most of The Range’s energy.

But the crowd, comprised mostly of young and middle-aged couples on dates, didn’t respond until Phantogram took the stage. They appeared after a minute-long introduction – an auto-tuned version of ­this viral YouTube video.

Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, the duo vocalists of Phantogram, from Greenwich New York, have been joined on tour by supporting band members. Barthel, dressed in a stylish cropped leather vest that bobbed with her short pixie cut, brought youthful energy. Carter didn’t mind staying in the shadows except to play his guitar solos and fulfill his lead vocals duty on tracks like “Turning Into Stone.”

You could tell that Phantogram are experienced performers; Carter knew exactly how to perform his guitar solos, and Barthel worked the stage effortlessly. Barthel made a quick outfit change for “Bill Murray,” one of the duo’s softer ballads from their most recent album Voices. She emerged in a glittery dress, a calculated pop princess.

But despite their nuanced showmanship, Phantogram didn’t interact much with the audience, even during their encore set, which included sing-along songs like “Celebrating Nothing.” For most of the show, the crowd sang with Barthel and Carter, but they never reached out the microphone to the audience—even when they concluded the show with “Mouthful of Diamonds,” an early hit from 2009. Finally the audiences’ energy matched Phantogram’s.

I came to the show with high expectations about the musicality and the talent of the performers, and they were just matched. There was nothing striking about either of the sets I watched—the music sounded pretty similar to what I had been listening in my headphones the days leading up to the show. I left the House of Blues without a drop of sweat or any relief of claustrophobia, and I kind of wish I were a little more exhausted, and a little less comfortable to end my night and go home.

Footwork and Glitter: The Range and Phantogram
Pros
  • Energetic performance
  • beautiful lighting
  • authentically talented performers
Cons
  • Not enough artist-audience interaction
  • Older, middle-aged crowd
  • Not that memorable
7.8Overall Score

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