Live Review: Air at The Masonic

The French electronic act brought background music to the forefront on Friday, June 23.

AIR (Credit: Danielle Hobart)

Air is the crown jewel when it comes to making multi-tasking music.

Their ponderous synths and reverbed harmonies are an ideal soundtrack for apartment cleaning, writing, and even romance. In some ways, seeing Air live is a bit of a shock, if only because their music connotes not the duo of Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel, but a separate, singular organism with the biological purpose of making slow, atmospheric jams.

Air doesn’t worry much about tweaking their sound in a live space — while Godin and Dunckel certainly have the chops to do so, they mostly let the songs continue as they were born. Thus “Cherry Blossom Girl” off 2004’s Talkie Walkie retains the sublime dreaminess of a crush that consumes your heart. The more ponderous and dark “Alone in Kyoto,” guided by the soft strum of a simple guitar line and the wordless whispers of a voice, is a musical travelogue about how beautiful and frightening isolation can be.

The typical San Francisco move of blowing off the opening band in favor of cocktails with too many ingredients at a bar with no seats meant that many missed the chance to see opener Lo Moon, who took to the stage as a band known to few, but left with a number of new converts. Singer Matt Lowell had no interest in playing the novice, quietly seething as the opening snaps and forlorn chords of his single “Loveless” spilled forth into the venue.

No one wants to be compared to Thom Yorke and not live up to the hype, but Lowell’s voice bears an unmistakable resemblance to the Radiohead frontman, swelling and raging with each song. There’s soul to be found in Lo Moon’s music as well, as Lowell’s mournful falsetto is underscored with a crisp, searching ambiance.

During their set, Air ensured the evening wasn’t without levity.

If you hear “Kelly Watch the Stars” and don’t instinctively find your booty shaking to its infectious synth line and ebullient refrain, you may be a terminal bummer. The band closed out the evening with a full-on rockstar moment, slaying an extended, raucous take on “La Femme d’Argent.”

Air is not a band that worries about fanfare. The audience is a constellation of kindred spirits, members of a club that is by no means secret yet somehow remains intimate. We are the ones who love songs with French titles we can’t pronounce. We are the ones who constantly imagine a soundtrack to our lives, notes, and words scored to our every moment.

In short, we try to live a life worthy of an Air song. Sometimes we get just what we deserve.

Setlist
Venus
Don’t Be Light
Cherry Blossom Girl
J’ai dormi sous l’eau
Remember
Playground Love
People in the City
Radian
Alpha Beta Gaga
Run
Talisman
How Does It Make You Feel?
Kelly Watch the Stars
Encore
Alone in Kyoto
Sexy Boy
La Femme d’Argent

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