Back in early March, I saw The Airborne Toxic Event perform at the Mod Club in Toronto. Despite being flu-stricken, lead singer Mikel Jollett sang his heart out. I remember later reading that the band had cancelled multiple dates prior to the show and that Jollett had vehemently refused recommendations from his doctor to cancel the Toronto gig on the grounds that Toronto simply wasn’t a city you cancelled over the flu. I also remember thinking to myself that he didn’t seem that sick to me because the show was so good.
Fast forward to Monday October 19th at The Phoenix Concert Theatre. When the band came out a few minutes later and rocked the place with “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”, I could tell this show would be a lot different from my previous one. The healthy, energetic version of Jollett was a completely different animal. All smiles, he joked around with his band mates, launched guitar picks into the audience, and genuinely looked like he was having the time of his life. Shortly after a nice little cover of “This Magic Moment” he introduced them as a relatively new band from California but was quick to warn the audience that if anyone asked him if he knew Paris Hilton he’d “punch them in the fuckin’ face,” at which the crowd wildly cheered. The band mainly performed songs from their self-titled album, but also entertained fans with a lively version of “The Girls In Their Summer Dresses” after hearing a request shouted from a group near the back of the club. Midway through the set, Jollett brought things down a notch when he took a seat on the speaker right in front of me (so close I could hear the little snaps of the guitar pick across the strings) and performed a stripped down version of “Wishing Well.” He also played some new material and a fantastic cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” giving the rest of the band a much needed rest, before resuming his position back on stage to finish the set with their hit single “Sometime Around Midnight,” “All I Ever Wanted,” and “Innocence.”
After reigniting the room with the encore performance of “Happiness Is Overrated, the members of opening act “The Henry Clay People” were brought out to join in on a brilliant cover of Jim Caroll’s “People Who Died”. And if that wasn’t enough, the band finished off the show with “Missy” in which Jollett beautifully infused The Smith’s “Ask” and “Panic” before finishing off with fever pitched flourish. The show was incredible from start to finish and has been cemented in my “Top 5” list of shows for 2009.