Review – The Airborne Toxic Event, Songs of God and Whiskey at The Observatory

Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event put on a show to remember when they played their new album, Songs of God and Whiskey, straight through at The Observatory in Orange County. Photo by Stephanie Webb.
Mikel Jollett and The Airborne Toxic Event put on a show to remember when they played their new album, Songs of God and Whiskey, straight through at The Observatory in Orange County. Photo by Stephanie Webb.

By Malia

Let me start by saying – I have a complete and total love affair with this band. Over the last four years I’ve gone to every Airborne show I could. I’ve been lucky enough to see them play all four studio albums in full, the first three during the Fillmore Residency and more recently Dope Machines performed at House of Blues in San Diego. I’ve watched them play at their dream venue – The Greek, and have seen them play small intimate venues like The Troubadour. In 2013 I saw what I have to admit was my favorite show of all time – Airborne performing with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa. I’m not bragging, I’m just trying to establish a baseline. Okay… I’m bragging just a little.

When Songs of God and Whiskey was released I listened to it straight through 4 times before turning it off. Then I went to bed, got up the next morning, and listened to it all day. It is the one album I keep on my iPhone for plane trips, car rides, and everything in between. To me SOGAW is Airborne at their best. Raw, lyrical, real, and playful. When they announced they’d be playing the album in its entirety, I set an alarm for the moment tickets went on sale.

With that little bit of history, it should go without saying that I had high hopes for this show going in. To say they delivered would be the understatement of the century. It’s hard to describe the experience of hearing all of SOGAW played live. It was clear from the first notes of “Poor Isaac” that this album meant as much to the band as it did to the audience. The band’s signature raw emotion, compelling lyrics, and general badassness (is that a word?) took center stage – and made me fall in love with them all over again. “April is the Cruelest Month” and “Fall of Rome” gave me shivers, and the highly anticipated premieres of “Why Why Why,” “Cocaine and Abel,” and “Strangers” were amazing and will definitely be added to my brag list. I can only hope that at least one of these songs starts to make a regular appearance alongside “Change and Change and Change and Change,” which has quickly become a crowd favorite.

As for the remainder of the set, honestly I would have been content just to have heard SOGAW live and hadn’t thought much about it beforehand. OH WOW. When the band dove straight into “Bride and Groom” I literally jumped up and down, spun around and said to my husband “do you hear this?!?!”, and then proceeded to bounce around like a small child throughout the entire song. The remainder of the set was almost as exciting, and lighter on songs from Dope Machines than expected, finishing up with classic favorites “All I Ever Wanted” and “Midnight.” Just when I thought there was no way the evening could get better, the encore gave us “Graveyard” (based on the crowd’s reaction I’m not the only one who would give anything to hear them play this song at every show), closely followed by “Elizabeth,” “All at Once,” and “Missy.”

Having been a little disappointed with the crowd at the last two Airborne shows we attended, I was apprehensive going into this one. I certainly didn’t need to be. This was the crowd you want to see Airborne play with. Pre-set murmurings were filled with stories exchanged about previous shows, and at least one friendly argument was had with nearby neighbors as to which of us has a bigger crush on Anna (I still think I win.) Maybe we were just lucky, but unlike recent times we have seen Airborne perform, from our side of the stage it seemed everyone was there for the music. And while all 5’3” of me gets frustrated trying to see around people recording every song on their iPhone, at least I felt like these were the fans who might actually go home and watch their videos, possibly on mute, since all the audio likely recorded was me (and my fellow mega-fans) singing and hollering at the band. As my ever-patient husband reminded me halfway through the show, people enjoy things in their own way. The good thing about this show is there was no way to leave without having enjoyed it.

Most notably, it wasn’t just the crowd having fun. The band was completely engaged and seemed like they were genuinely having a great time – smiling, joking, and teasing each other in a way we hadn’t seen since the Fillmore. Mikel seemed happy, and even mentioned during the encore that this night had been the highlight of a “really shitty month.” He spent the entire show interacting with the audience, cracking jokes, and playing around with the rest of the band – calling Adrian out on a last minute wardrobe change and joyously introducing each member of the band, including the unusual (and fantastic!) addition of guest musical support on piano (John Morrical) and trumpet (Mark Bush). Due to a last minute change to the show’s start time we were a little further back than I would have liked, however the Observatory’s tiered viewing area compensated for a slightly less than ideal vantage point. The setup also gave Mikel plenty to climb on – something he took heavy advantage of, coming out into the crowd a number of times over the course of the night.

At the end of the night I walked out voiceless, happy, and completely satisfied. TATE delivered everything I could have hoped for during this show (with the exception of “Duet” being crossed out on the setlist… Why Mikel, why, why, why?!?). And while I really don’t know how they will continue to top previous experiences, I have no doubt that they will. Once again, I am now impatiently waiting for the next show, while reminiscing about the last. Hopefully they won’t make us wait long.

Setlist

About thisisnowhere 413 Articles
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere and author of Toxic History: The Story of The Airborne Toxic Event. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.

2 Comments on Review – The Airborne Toxic Event, Songs of God and Whiskey at The Observatory

  1. Yes improved crowd from the san Diego agreed! A bit harsh for my heart hearing bride and groom right after fall of rome. Such great lyrics 🙂

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