by / November 13th, 2009 /

The Airborne Toxic Event, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Hail to the power of radio play. Tonight is testament to what remains the number one force for pushing a band around these parts. Following five previous visits to these shores, one album and a considerable radio hit under their belt, The Airborne Toxic Event walk onstage at The Olympia, reaching something of a benchmark of success in this country. They’ve drawn a sizeable crowd too, though there are very few of the skinny-jeaned posse in attendance tonight. This is not a draw for those who like to think they’re on the cusp of things and – at the risk of casting much derision on those present – this is very much an audience made-up of those grappling to keep in touch with an ever-evolving list of -must-see’ acts and changing musical landscapes. For those on the wrong side of 30, and who just didn’t -get’ Arcade Fire, The Strokes, The Libertines and The National, The Airborne Toxic Event are their new band, their exciting new find. To the musically astute however, they simply represent a watered-down, pop-infused and accessible alternative for the masses. Bland is probably an apt description. One hit wonder is probably the label that will stick.

Like all American acts of such ilk, ATE feel that they’ve too put on a -show’ rather than a concert. Music alone is not enough. The stage is set up with two giant television screens, while drummer Darren Taylor is set up on a high riser with sets of steps leading up to him. This is all fine. It’s the calculated scissor kicks and jumps from bassist Noah Harmon, the leaps from the staircase, the practised stage theatrics and the over-whelming feeling that they move around to -perform’ the exact same routine every night that dilutes any of the emotion in the music. At one stage frontman Mikel Jollett describes the group’s music as Punk, and you have to wonder if the man has ever heard a Punk record in his life. This is a band that, in action and appearance, have been styled to the nines and thus stripped of any form of individuality. They’re just another -here today, gone tomorrow’ five piece. It’s a pity because strip-back the gloss and the irritating stage demeanour and you’ve got signs of things that can work.

Jollett, a novel writer, formed the group after finding himself writing stories more suited to lyrics than fiction and thus somewhat stumbled into musical success. Songs such as -Gasoline’, -Wishing Well’, -Does This mean You’re Moving On?’ and the ubiquitous -Sometime Around Midnight’ are lyrically engaging and on record are sung with the emotion and conviction to match. Get past the bland musical arrangements and tonight they’re the songs which fire-up the crowd and, connect with people.

Yet there’s so much filler in here, songs that sound like Razorlight b-sides and are delivered with feigned intensity, that it’s a struggle to sit through the hour and a bit set. With -Missy’ they’ve even taken the time out to rip-off The Fratellis. A couple of new songs are also aired – -A Letter For Georgia’ and -Echo Park’ amongst them – and neither bode well for the future. In fact, it’s two covers, which mark tonight’s highlights – a fine version of Yo La Tengo’s -Sugarcube’ and a ramshackle run-through of Bruce Springsteen’s -I’m On Fire’.

In truth, ATE should serve as a one-off vehicle for Jollett in expressing the troubled period in his life that led to the band’s formation. He should return to the novel form. There’s little further ATE can go. As players they’re sloppy and musically unimaginative. Let’s hope they enjoyed their night in The Olympia. If they do return to these four walls again, it will be as audience members.

Photos of Codes and Airbourne Toxic Event by Kieran Frost.

[nggallery id=66]

  • tony


  • Liza

    So, why don’t you tell us how you really feel! I guess audiences around the world of all ages and backgrounds haven’t a clue… Could it be… this is just a really good band that loves what they do and does what they do well! Why is it that we have to rip them apart…. is that a prerequisite of being a “critic”….

    We all have our subjective opinions~ as is mine…

    Airborne is a really entertaining band… they play with heart, they play with passion and they connect with the audience and show appreciation…. That works for me!

  • Jonah

    oh to be a critic. to have no musical talent and cast one’s nose down at those who fail to impress you.

    the strokes are connected rich kids. and everything you’re saying about TATE was said about them, only worse.

    so having a daddy as a lawyer and an enormous record deal after 4 shows is legit (as the strokes did) but playing hundreds and hundreds of shows and putting out a record made in a house when you’re a broke writer from a working-class family isn’t?

    do some research.

    bland, disinterested:

    You literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

  • Mic

    This reviewer went in with an agenda. This is a crass and ill-informed review. What’s the basis for his claim that The Airborne Toxic Event are sloppy musicians? Not in my experience.

  • Kyerin

    Ok, even though the Airborne Toxic Event are one of my favourite bands, I was willing to accept the reviewer’s right to his own opinion, right up to the point where he suggests ‘Missy’ is a Fratellis rip-off. You’re hurting my feelings now, Mr. Cummins, because Missy is probably my favourite song on the album, and I happen to think the Fratellis are the kind of bland, inexplicably successful band you think ATE to be, followed by those who like to be seen to be ‘on the cusp’, to quote your good self.

    Obviously as a fan I’m a little biased, so I’ll try to be objective here. I don’t think this band can be accused of achieving anything by radio play, certainly not in this country. Yes, at the time of Sometime Around Midnight’s release it was played on Phantom, that’s where I first heard the band. Gasoline also got a little play later. Er, that’s it, as far as I’m aware. I’m thinking of people I know who consider themselves to be well up on new music and all of them are only peripherally aware of ATE, if they’ve heard of them at all. Perhaps they share your view that they’re simply not cool enough.

    I have to say that ATE are not the kind of band I normally listen to. I’ll admit I’m apprehensive of what their second album will sound like, guess I’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m drawn to their music, their live energy and the way they make time for their fans. I thought the gig was a blast and I hope they’re here to stay.

    (Oh, I’d also like to add that I’m very much on the ‘right’ side of 30 and I felt the majority of the crowd on Wednesday were too. Maybe that was just up the front 🙂 )

  • Shane

    I can feel this review taking a a similar path to the infamous SuperJiminez review already!

    Yep, it’s probably a little bit harsh. Buuuuuuuut, they’re not a very good band really…are they?
    Yeah, to some people they are entertaining. That’s fine, totally valid, would never like to tell anyone that what they think is wrong. But, will they go past a second album? I can’t really see them surviving for too long unless they change a little bit and try their own thing.

    Too many songs sound like songs that were released in the last 2-3 years.

    The Strokes argument is a bit silly. Yeah, The Strokes took a lot of influence from a lot of previous bands (as all bands do). But, when I heard The Strokes I felt that I hadn’t heard anything like them (or even as good as them) in long time. Whereas when ya hear ATE you think of Arcade Fire immediately…and not even a better version of them. Not such a good thing.

    Of course I should say that this all just in my opinion.

  • Si

    Well said Jonah.

    I think what gets me the most is the “To the musically astute however…” line – that’s you is it Steve? Could you be any more patronising and arrogant? I’m guessing the answer is probably yes.

    Just please don’t tell me you get paid for writing this drivel…

  • Outonawire

    I’ve never read more bullshit in my life.
    If you don’t like a band fine, but you have no need to be so patronising, what makes you such an expert on music? Because you haven’t got a clue!
    This is unquestionably one of the best bands around and they will be around for a long time to come. They have energy, passion and drive and sa much as i liked The Strokes, this band are streets ahead.
    Go write a review for the X Factor, it’s obviously more your style.

  • Lauren

    I disagree with pretty much everything you say. Having been a fan since I first heard them in March I finally got to see them in Manchester last week and thought they were amazing. For the record I’m under 30 and a big fan of Arcade Fire and The Strokes and would never go see a band because the media described them as ‘must see’. Having seen over 150 bands, I’d say their live performance was one of the best I have seen. Plus to say they sound like Razorlight B sides is an insult. Razorlight have got nothing on TATE!

  • macmed

    spot on for the most part steven.. the whole experience of ATE that night felt really manufactured, even the parts where they tried to lose themselves in the performance you could tell they had already thought through, as if that would be something cool to incorporate. unoriginal and detached. it was embarrassing when ATE compared their music to punk, i felt like they may be a bit disillusional about their own work.. and not know much about the music world, which seems very unusual for artists. have to say the best parts of the gig were when they were covering other peoples work, the smiths was the highlight for me. mostly just drivel.

  • Outonawire

    Really agree with you Lauren, having been to more festivals than i care to remember and seen a shed load of gigs, varying from pubs to stadiums, i have TATE in my top three gigs.
    More than anything i just found this review simply insulting to the band.

  • Outonawire

    So did any “fans” actually go to the Dublin show? If so what did you think of it.
    The Bristol show was amazing, it never felt at any point “manufactured,” and i never saw the band “trying to loose themselves,” they simply played a truly brilliant set and really enjoyed it.
    The problem we have here is that some people did go to show because they thought they should, not because they like the band.

  • I too agree with steve…
    Over styled, Over Hyped,………….
    These guy’s were/are just not up to it
    having picked up a copy of their record a while ago i only really got into “sometime around midnight”…
    This is the only tune that i felt came from the heart both lyrically & musically..
    The rest sounded like they picked a style from all their favourite bands both past & current and said,ok, strokes, lets see….
    Loved the stage set up….BUT, 6ft 220lbs guys should not be dressed out of Topman, they looked ridiculous(the lady playing the violin looked well)….
    another example of a band bending over the barrel for the record company man ….
    They are not a punk band, having compared themselves to a punk band during the show was not, PUNK…….
    the thing that really gets me about my hometown is a review can only be positive and not negative or truthful….
    I’ve reviewed bands, I’ve played in bands that have been reviewed, got both good and bad reviews, its only an opinion
    people take the blinkers off…..freedom of speech and all that…
    Im pretty sure this band wont be around much longer on current form
    I do hope they find their true sound and follow it right to the end……..
    Good Afternoon

  • Outonawire, may I refer you to

    Ron del Fuego, of course everyone is entitled to their opinions. So the guy hated the band, thought the audience were idiots, blah. There are some of us who disagree with his views, and we should be able to voice our opinions. No one expects all reviews to be positive, but as Si said, this one was arrogant and patronising.

    As for the punk comments… come on people, does no one have a sense of humour?!