Minutes before Phantogram took the stage, the sold-out crowd watched as a large, transparent screen rose up in front of the stage, separating them from the band. Many speculated that the screen was a curtain meant to drop and reveal Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, the duo that comprises the New York electronic band. But as the beginning of “Black Out Days” came through the speaker, the visual element that Phantogram brought became the main focus.
Prior to the headliner's set, the sold-out crowd trickled into the venue to the sounds of The Range, the electronic project of DJ James Hinton. The only true visual component was sparse—a few setup lights—with Hinton commanding the turntables, combining ambient and hip-hop beats with his own poetic lyrics. Given that many opening DJ sets turn out to be nothing more than background noise leading up to the show itself, Hinton’s command was a welcome deviation.
But the beauty of the night lived in what Phantogram brought immediately after. The duo is known for their production, made up of lights, disco dresses and smoke. With powerful electronic elements, the display made up a lot of the show.
Two songs in, the purpose of the large screen showed itself as a projector lit up, creating dancing geometric images that floated in front of the band. As Barthel belted out over Carter’s beats to “Black Out Days,” the crowd watched not the band, but the visual masterpiece painted on the canvas in front of them.
This production element remained for one more track before dropping like a curtain. As the duo played through songs off their new album, Three, lights strobed, flashed and silhouetted the action on stage, which accumulated even more production as the night went on.
After a quick wardrobe change, Barthel emerged in a trailing cape, stepping onto a small ladder to a platform elevated off the stage. As the dark and slow track came through and Barthel sung out, smoke began to envelop her, emerging from within the cape itself. It was nothing short of stunning, and it added another dimension to the music.
As the duo kicked off their four-song encore with “Barking Dog,” the screen appeared again, projecting more visuals and providing a sort-of movie for the crowd to watch with Phantogram's electronic soundscapes the soundtrack.
With strong visual elements adding imagery and dimension to the show, the crowd was treated to a stunning set. For those in the front, the lights and energy of the band fueled a raw and powerful electronic set not easily forgotten. But with a projecting canvas, smoke and dancing lights, even the back of the crowd left with a memory like a dream. In the end, Phantogram created nothing less than a live masterpiece at the Crystal Ballroom.