Date: May 13, 2011
Venue: Opera House
Audience indifference can have quite an effect on the energy of a performance. No matter how talented a band may be, a weak spectatorship has the ability to undermine even the most entertaining show. Friday night’s performance by the Airborne Toxic Event at the Opera House was threatened, at times, by this very act.
As I walked into the sold-out venue prior to start time, I instantly became aware of a feverish anticipation possessing the room. There is no denying that sort of sensation. The concertgoers were laughing and yelling with an unbridled enthusiasm, keenly aware of impending bliss. I realized that this show was going to be fully charged.
But then something enigmatic occurred. As soon as the show commenced, the audience immediately mutated into a congregation of listless observers who were seemingly content with simply staring back at a band striving to entertain (they were sporadically jolted awake by the opening two tracks “Numb” and “Wishing Well”, but it quickly subsided).
The heavily intoxicated gentleman next to me even noticed this abnormality. Observing me jotting down some notes, he staggered over, put his arm around me, and began to speak with the echoing presence of an infant, “What are wrong…with the people? Where’s the dancing? They does not move…they just standing…doing nothing. Th…is band rocks!” Though I was distracted from two songs as a result of this marble-mouthed individual, I did wholeheartedly agree with his hazy assessment.
However, around the midway point of the performance, the audience resurged with a vengeance. As the band broke into some of their more popular songs like “Happiness is Overrated”, “Changing”, “Welcome to Your Wedding Day” and “Sometime Around Midnight”, the audience morphed into energetic cheerleaders. Raising their hands to the sky and bounding around with reckless abandon, the show was instantaneously transformed into the event I had prematurely believed it would be throughout its duration.
Even the band was influenced by the sudden alteration in atmosphere. Earlier in the show while talking to the crowd, singer Mikel Jolleet had to stop what he was saying and confront a portion of the audience who seemed preoccupied with conversing loudly with one another. Humorously, he noted, “There’s a single’s bar next door if you guys are interested”.
From that moment on, the audience belonged to the band. As if spurred on by a new found zeal, Jolleet twice leapt into the crowd to sing amongst them (during “Something New”, he even ascended atop one of the bar’s and sang a duet with fellow band member, Anna Bullbrook, who remained on stage). Apparently influenced by Jolleet’s gallantry, Bullbrook herself dove into the crowd and proceeded to play the viola while moshing. It’s safe to say I have never witnessed an act quite like it before.
Though there were a few sonic irregularities that occurred throughout the night (Jollett’s guitar wouldn’t work on “Papillon” and had to be replaced mid-song), the band’s passionate display of their talents compensated for the few lackluster moments. Even when the show concluded, the band members didn’t immediately vacate the stage. They took the time to take pictures and chat with their fans, who they constantly thanked throughout the evening. It was a highly admirable act that redeemed a night initially jeopardized by apathy.