Phantogram at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Originating from Greenwich, New York, genre-bending duo Phantogram fill the Shepherd’s Bush Empire with their eclectic brand of heavy beats, swirling guitars, sci-fi keyboards and immense vocals.
It’s hard to place this band, and it’s one of their best qualities. One moment, singer Sarah Barthel’s subdued airy vocals float in balladry, the next she’s roaring huge notes to complicated electro beats and looping tracks. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s almost impossible to hear the subtleties of Phantogram’s music through the abrasive wall of sound; but, as much as it can be annoying, in tunes like Run Run Blood and Howling at the Moon the layers of music are pieced together into huge atmospheric numbers that Barthel champions with her fantastic voice.
While the songs are eclectic, the atmosphere is a little mixed, as if the crowd aren’t sure whether to dance or sing, or just watch. The hesitation is eliminated as the band progress through their set, and especially when Josh Carter mounts a keypad to play Don’t Move. The audience cheer as soon as the intro tracks sound and Barthel slinks around the stage. She has a subdued stage presence that grows as the gig continues, but this is a good sacrifice; she needs to pay a lot of attention to the complexities of her vocals, and they benefit from this. Her voice is incredible, and it’s clear that, as well as the production, this is central to the pair’s music. Often the songs are characterised by the singer’s mixture of delicate falsetto, huge notes, trip hop patois, and shouts and growls.
By the end of the gig, the audience is electrified by Phantogram’s musical elasticity. Especially as the duo end on You Don’t Get Me High Anymore. While, they can be criticised as being a “studio band”, they create an undeniable rhythm and atmosphere that truly infected the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, and Barthel’s performance is a spectacle enough on its own.
Photos: Guifre de Peray
For further information about Phantogram and future events visit here.
Watch the video for You Don’t Get Me High Anymore here: