I saw Phantogram with opening act White Sea at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, CA, which is a small 1,000 person venue that allows for an intimate experience. I attended the show with two others, and we were able to get to about 5 feet from the stage, on the left, which is where Sara Barthel performs for most of the Phantogram set.
I was impressed with White Sea - they are a 3 person act - Morgan Kibby and a supporting guitarist and drummer. Morgan's voice is powerful! The backing musicians were solid, especially the drummer, a young lady who really impressed.
I am a big fan of Phantogram, and after watching the many videos you can find online, I was sure they would be a great live act. I have to say - they blew my expectations away - I've seen a lot of concerts, and this has to rank as one of the top for energy, presence and pure musical performances I've seen.
For touring, Phantogram - Sara Barthel and Josh Carter bring along a drummer and a guitarist/keyboardist. Make no mistake, the show is Sara and Josh and they perform as a cohesive sonic blast of energy and showmanship. Sara's voice is every bit as good live as it is in the studio - she needs no autotuning, that's for sure. I've seen videos of her doing both the singing, the keyboards, the sampling and the rhythms, but I am glad some of this workload is taken off her for the live shows, which allows her the freedom to perform, and lay down the lyrics with impeccable timing - similar enough to the recordings that they are comfortably familiar, but with an extra level of live energy that separates performers who "perform" from those who just sing live.
Josh Carter holds his own in this duo as a performer. I think he is happy to let Sara absorb much of the spotlight - and that's smart for many reasons - but he brings a dimension of solid guitar work that is an essential part of Phantogram's sound. He can also sing! and he does so on a couple of songs to give Sara a break. His performance of "I Don't Blame You" about 3/4 of the way through the show was a highlight - the passion he puts into both the lyrics and the guitar for that piece takes a show that was already soaring into the stratosphere.
They played most of the songs from the new album, and dip back into Eyelid Movies, of course, for the favorites there. The play sequence flowed well from song to song, and the slow down to "Bill Murray" about half way through is perfectly positioned.
When you think it can't get any better, the band re-emerges for the encore set and played three favorites ("Mouthful of Diamonds", "Celebrating Nothing" and the excellent "Futuristic Casket") putting the exclamation mark on, really just an exceptional overall performance.
If you get the chance to see this band, do it - you will not be disappointed.
Pictures I took: