LIVE: Phantogram, o2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (4/4/17)

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It was as recent as November that New York duo Phantogram were last in London as one of a few dates on a UK tour. This time, their stopover was even more brief as it was the only UK show of their European tour. Last time they packed out the ‘under the arches’ venue Heaven, but this time around were in the somewhat more spacious environs of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire… not that it felt especially spacious, with a close-to-sell-out crowd packing out the stalls.

Their particular brand of bombastic beats, rock riffs and swirling synths puts the band in a fairly unique place – too dark to be considered pop, yet not really a natural fit for the rock, electronic or indie tags either. Lyrically, the tone is certainly on the bleak side, but that’s counterbalanced with a fierce, high octane sound that makes their live show such a compelling one.

A little late to the stage – as seems to be their style – Phantogram rattled through a 75-minute set that was full of energy and volume. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter manage to keep the between-song chatter to a minimum. Sometimes, this can create a sense of aloofness from a band but somehow, they still seem to manage a strong connection with fans old and new. The setlist kept fans from both camps happy too. There were tracks from the early days such as Mouthful of Diamonds and When I’m Small from 2009 debut album Eyelid Movies, as well as a generous helping of new material from most recent album Three, including Same Old Blues, Destroyer, and Run Run Blood.

They saved the best for last though with a three-song encore that capped the evening superbly. Firstly, Carter took up the vocal duties for the intense and mesmerising Barking Dog, before what was perhaps Barthel’s peak moment of the night with the wonderfully-sung Cruel World. They wrapped up with their uptempo anthem You Don’t Get Me High Anymore, performed with the kind of bounce and swagger that’s only possible when a band knows it has a seriously great song to end with.

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