Ed. Note: Over the next five Tuesdays, we’ll be gearing up for The Airborne Toxic Event’s upcoming residency at San Francisco’s Fillmore (Sept. 18-20) with a series of posts to whet our collective appetite. Today’s is the first installment.
I’ve seen a lot of Airborne Toxic Event gigs. Well, I suppose “a lot” depends on the context. Compared to some fans who have seen them 40, 50 times or more, I’m just a rookie. But by normal person standards, I’ve attended plenty of shows.
Despite that, there are a surprising number of TATE songs that I’ve never seen performed live. And that’s a big part of what makes the impending San Francisco residency a must-attend event: with the band performing a different one of their three studio albums in full each night, it’s a golden and perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any fan to cross a bunch of songs off their live TATE bucket list.
Below are ten songs that are guaranteed to be played, that I can’t wait to see. If you’re going to be there, what’s on your list?
10. It Doesn’t Mean a Thing
The first of six songs on this list that I have yet to experience in the flesh, “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing” promises to be a rollicking good time with its Gasoline-esque rhythm and relentless energy.
9. Strange Girl
One unknown heading into the residency is whether the band will feel compelled to stick close to the album arrangements, or whether they’ll pull out some alternate versions. For example, will “The Kids Are Ready to Die” be played in the punk-style that we’ve come to expect in concert, or will we witness a live rendition of the powerfully stark album version? In a similar vein, the rarely-played “Strange Girl” has at times been presented as a slowed down, bare bones vocal tour de force by Mikel Jollett. Is this what they have in store for us? Either way, it will be the first time for me.
8. Dope Machines/California
After witnessing these new songs at Boonstock, I’m champing at the bit to see them again. It’s always interesting to see new material evolve as the band gets comfortable with it in a live setting. Some have noted that Mikel’s falsetto in “Dope Machines” wasn’t entirely successful in its first couple of performances. Will he perhaps take it down an octave or three going forward?
7. What’s in Name?
Though “What’s in a Name” has never been played since its release on Such Hot Blood, I was lucky enough to see it at the pre-release Red Rocks show – another occasion in which a falsetto chorus didn’t quite do it for me. Subsequently, the high notes were shelved in favor of a full-throated attack that worked a lot better, and I’ve been waiting ever since to experience it again.
6. This is London
Another seldom-played Such Hot Blood track, “This is London” boasts some of the very best lyrics in the TATE catalog, in my opinion. I’m looking forward to hearing them sung in person.
5. All for a Woman
Of the three All At Once songs that I’ve yet to see, “All for a Woman” has been at the top of my list. It will be even more interesting to see how the band arranges it in light of Noah Harmon’s recent replacement by Adrian Rodriguez. Traditionally, Noah and Steven Chen have swapped instruments for this song. Will it be the same this time out?
One of my favorites from Such Hot Blood, and the final song I haven’t witnessed from that album. “Elizabeth” is beautiful in its simplicity.
“Innocence” is my all-time favorite song, bar none, and with it having become a rarity after years as a setlist standard, it would normally be atop my list. It slips down a couple spots only because I have seen it a few times previously. This time promises to be different, though, as Noah’s departure will surely necessitate some degree of reimagination of the arrangement. I have no doubt this will be one of the highlights for everyone in attendance.
2. The Fifth Day
The first time I heard “The Fifth Day,” from the fourth row at Red Rocks, I was stunned into silence. Seriously – it was drop-dead gorgeous, and I was certain that it would be a showstopper on the subsequent tour. Whether it’s because the band didn’t feel they could do it justice without an orchestra or for some other reason, it didn’t happen. I expect that the version we hear on Sept. 20 will be significantly different, with only Anna Bulbrook and her viola to bring the symphonic element, and I’m counting the days till I get to see what they do with it.
1. This is Nowhere
It’s funny. Had I written this list a year and a half ago, “This is Nowhere” would have been on it, but much farther down. But once I decided to name the website after it, it became my great white whale of TATE songs – the one I have to see in person, but feared I never would. And yet, here it comes.
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. 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.