Photo by S Slaybaugh
In the last five or so years i have gotten in the habit of never really going to see concerts that require me to purchase tickets. I am not sure why this is, There are tons of artists who i would love to see live, but never have because it would require me to buy a ticket. Honestly i am pretty lazy about going to shows, certain factors in my life have spoiled me in regards to going to see bands… anyway, a few months ago i saw that Air was playing a show in new york on their brief us tour, so i reluctantly bought tickets. i had no idea who the openers were, but figured they would be great since they are touring with air. at one point i was even excited about the openers because i stupidly thought they had to be good because there was no way that air would bring a shitty band with them on tour… NOPE. it was some asshole from LA who calls himself “AM” (not dj AM rip) they were fucking terrible. i won’t waste your time with anymore on them (though i am tempted to go into great detail as to who fucking terrible they were, the guy who is the band pretty much reminded me what sucks about LA and guys who want to start bands).
Once the jerk opening band was done with their self inflicted session of public humiliation there was one of the strangest set changes i have ever seen at a concert. Most people did not notice this, but i was in a place that kinda forced me to watch, and i am a bit of a voyeur so i watched. the first thing that was weird was some guy came out and lined up all the water bottles in a OCD style straight line on the amps, and picked up any stray debris off the stage and threw it away (its not like there was trash on the stage, it looked like he picked up a stray guitar pick, and maybe a gum wrapper). I would not have thought anything of him picking up trash and lineing up water bottles, but right when he finished a 60 plus white man in what looked to be a train conductors uniform came out in white gloves and tediously cleaned each key on each of the seven synthesizers. He looked like a character out of thomas the tank engine, and i could not help but wonder these things, who is this old man. did they request that he dressed like this, or was it his idea? why is he cleaning those keyboards, was there a food fight? is he crazy? (more on him in a bit).
after about half an hour of weird behavior by the road crew, a giant projection screen flashed on with the air logo, then Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel walked out onto the stage. Nicolas Godin came out dressed in tailored grey wool pants, a white dress shirt with the top three buttons open that was neatly tucked in, and a white silk scarf slung over his shoulders. Jean-Benoît Dunckel was wearing white pants, white shoes, a white shirt and a white tie, all perfectly tailored to fit his “i survive on wine, cigarettes and the occasional meal” frame.
I am aware that most people don’t give a shit what the band was wearing, but there style of dress was one of the details that added to the overwhelming “we came from another much cooler planet than this one to play music for you heathens” vibe that they had on stage. it seems like these days every band works hard to seem like they are “just normal everyday joes” when they are on stage. When the occasional band dips its toes in theatrics and showmanship it usually reflects their questionable upbringing and dreadful taste level (man man im looking at you). don’t get me wrong i enjoy seeing rock band in jeans and t-shirts or whatever, but there is something to be said for musicians presenting themselves in a way that in a subtle way says “im not like everybody else”. enough on that.
I was standing on upper balcony overlooking the left side of the stage, once i got over my slight case of vertigo from staring straight down at the band, it proved to be a great spot in a venue that is infamous for terrible sound. Jean-Benoît Dunckel was on the other side of the stage with a bass guitar, a moog source(1981), and a questionable modern roland that was used only as a vocoder. a man came out every few songs to bring him an acoustic guitar. directly below me was Nicolas Godin who was flanked by a horde of some of the most soughtafter keyboard based instruments ever made. i am not kidding here, it is important to note that air is one of few bands that references eras and styles of music by using the instruments that were key to the sound of those times. (most bands buy some garbage digital synthesizer and use it for everything and don’t understand why there synth pad soundscapes sound like owl city and not tangerine dream.) from what i could tell these are the keyboards that godin was playing. on his left side he had a Korg MS-20 (from 1978), that was sat on top of an Arp Solina String Ensemble (1974) both of those sat on top of what i think was a another string synth (this one was used for keyboard “choir” sounds) directly in front of him he had a moog source (1981) that sat on top of some sort of electric piano (not a fender rhodes)… anyway my point is that the reason air songs sometimes sound like 70s new age, or can backed up by someone on factory records, is because they record using the same keyboards, and apparently, they fucking tour with them.
in regards to the music i will be brief. They were mind blowing. fucking mind blowing. they had a drummer backing them up but that was it. Godin would play a bass line and Jean-Benoît Dunckel would play the rest of the parts on his army of keyboards. they did not even dumb down the songs or drop out parts… they did everything. thats about it, in my opinion there is nothing worse than someone jabbering on about what songs they played and that bullshit, so i will leave it at that. one last thing, when the switched songs the guy in the conductors outfit and white gloves would walk out, turn the MS-20 around, program a new patch into it, and then turn it back around.
Anyway my point was the show was really good, this is one of those bands that i think get slept on. most people seem to like them, or at least like moon safari but no one i knows really cares what they are up to these days (prior to the concert this included myself). after seeing them live it changed my whole perspective on shit. if you can go see them, you will not be disapoint.