Live Review: Phantogram & The Veldt @ Palace Theatre, St. Paul, MN 12 Mar 2017

Photograph by Rebecca Marx

A century on, the stage lights at the Palace Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota are once more turned on and shining brightly. A venue that once showcased vaudeville and the likes of Charlie Chaplin, the Palace Theatre is now owned by the City of St. Paul, and will be co-managed and co-operated by the iconic First Avenue along with Jam Productions. The 2,700 person capacity venue underwent a nearly 16 million dollar face lift after being in a state of disrepair and despair, and will strategically fill a missing piece in the entertainment puzzle of the Twin Cities. The inaugural weekend was launched with a run of three shows over the dates of March 10th to March 12th. The first of the three consecutive concerts featured Minnesota based Hip Hop artist Atmosphere, followed by legendary homegrown band the Jayhawks, and culminating in a sold out show by Phantogram.

The Palace Theatre was just the right venue for the ultimate Phantogram experience highlighted by creative lighting effects, overall great sight lines both on the main floor and in the balcony, and most importantly–superb acoustics to showcase their electronica pop anthems. The duo of Sarah Barthel and Joshua Carter shone in front of a crowd of loyal fans who cheered exuberantly for mega hits like the transcendent “Fall In love” (Voices, 2014) and the more recent “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” from 2016’s release Three. YDGMHA has been a resounding hit, cementing the band as a leading alternative pop act, successfully threading the needle between widespread success and art.

Their latest album Three is much darker thematically, and showcases an intensely personal collection of songs. Its recording was interrupted by personal tragedy, one which the pair acknowledged in the final moments of an encore with their message of “It is okay to hurt, to be sad, talk to people–you are loved, we love you.” In January of this year Carter and Barthel teamed up with The Happy Hippie Foundation to fight the stigma of mental illness after losing Barthel’s sister to suicide. The duo will continue their U.S. stretch of their tour with opening band The Veldt, and then travel on to Europe for more shows before returning to the West Coast.

Those unfamiliar with Phantogram’s opening act got a special treat in that they were privy to the pioneering shoegaze soul band The Veldt. The Veldt formed in the musical renaissance of 1980’s Raleigh, North Carolina, and at the time their soulful shoegaze sound with an undercurrent of Afro-beat topped off with the Al Green-like vocal sounds of Daniel Chavis was deemed too “difficult” for the record industry to successfully market. Fast forward to now and their past catalog is widely lauded and applauded for being ahead of its time, a time that wasn’t ready for an African American soul singer to front a pivotal shoegaze band. Witnessing The Veldt onstage at the Palace Theatre with their music enveloping the room in a luminous swell of sound and Chavis’s falsetto raining down upon the audience, it felt like time has finally caught up with The Veldt.

They’re touring six U.S. dates with Phantogram to promote their soon to be released EP: The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation. “Sanctified” from the upcoming EP was particularly compelling live, a love ballad that reaches new heights of lushness, and who could be immune to those goose bump invoking vocals? A great throwback track that The Veldt opened the night with was “Everlasting Gobstopper” from the band’s incarnation as Apollo Heights, a song heavy with layer upon layer of fuzzy guitars, and a reminder of how innovative these musicians were, and are. The Veldt’s closer was the intensely atmospheric and sensual “Heather” off of their acclaimed 1994 release Afrodisiac. Anticipation is high for the June 2nd release date of The Veldt’s EP The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation via Schoolkids Records. The star track of the EP is And It’s You<, a shimmering aural premonition of great things to come for The Veldt, to be sure.

Editor’s note: We also previously announced The Veldt’s upcoming Record Store Day release – the ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’ 7″ single on April 22nd.

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