Monday, March 22, 2010

Air at Terminal 5 3/20/10

In the three years since Air last touched down on U.S. soil, a lot has changed. Mario Cotillard won an Oscar for her portrayal of Édith Piaf in
La Vie En Rose. Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of Serge) got major indie cred by releasing an album with Beck. Phoenix was interviewed by Snooki on the Grammys red carpet.

When Air came on the scene ten years ago with the critical favorite
Moon Safari, the idea of a French electro-lounge act selling out the 3,000-person capacity Terminal 5 would have seemed absurd. Their songs never progress much beyond sensual slowjam, yet on a warm Friday night the venue was bursting with kids ready to rock, or at least stand around delicately sipping gin and tonics.

Electro-lounge combines two genres that have difficulty coming across live, a fact of which this duo is clearly aware. Hired-gun drummer Alex Thomas (Bat for Lashes, Badly Drawn Boy) pounded out the dance beats at a volume far surpassing the recorded versions and a fancy video screen flashed various lighted effects to compensate for the lack of onstage movement. At a seated theater or club this might have sufficed, but the audience packed onto Terminal 5’s hot ballroom floor seemed ready to topple any moment.

To be sure, the music was there. Many of the older songs enjoyed new arrangements, some pretty drastic. The inevitable “Sexy Boy,” for instance, found its funky bass line submerged under an ocean of synth shimmer while “La Femme d’Argent” turned into a wall-of-sound jam.

Impressive though their musical dexterity was though, music this laid-back is best enjoyed while half-asleep on a sunny afternoon. Air is the soundtrack to the imagination, but it’s hard to let the mind drift with the constant threat of a stray elbow or martini surrounding you.

The half-hearted attempt at visuals only underscored the static onstage. The high-powered animations were mostly excuses to display the band’s name, swirling and surging like a Windows screensaver. A screensaver can be fun to watch for a few minutes, but pretty soon you either want to shake the computer awake or go do something else.

Do the Joy
So Light is Her Footfall
J’ai Dormi
Missing the Light of Day
Tropical Disease
People In The City
Don’t Be Light
Cherry Blossom Girl
Be a Bee
How Does It Make You Feel?
Alpha Beta Gaga
Kelly Watch the Stars!
Heaven’s Light
Sexy Boy
La Femme d’Argent

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