AIR and openers light up The Grove

Sarah Komisky and Aaron Stein-Chester

It’s rare to find an opening act that is of the same caliber as the headliner, but in the case of Indie Artists Low vs. Diamond and Sondre Lerche, it isn’t a surprise. The two bands united with AIR on Sept. 24 at the Grove in Anaheim, presented by KCRW.

Low vs. Diamond’s somber yet sweet musical arrangements and the exquisite harmonies between Lucas Field and Anthony Polcino make this band likeable from the start. If their cool 1980s vibe doesn’t get you, then Field’s voice will.Layered and textured “I’ll Be” and “Heart Attack” were both organic and artistic.

Greeting the audience with his thick Norwegian accent, Mr. Lerche began with “Airport Taxi Reception,” a quirky song with great guitar riffs.

Lerche also played “She’s Fantastic,” an up-tempo Indie love song written for his wife, and then slowed it down with “Tragic Mirror”, a piece that he called the opposite of “She’s Fantastic.” This song showed off Lerche’s folk side and sincere lyrics.

As a special treat, Lerche revealed a song off the film soundtrack, “Dan in Real Life,” loaded entirely with Lerche songs. This new song mixed folk and blues,and it was something new for the audience. “Modern Nature,” a sweet, lighthearted tune, echoed the voices of fans that knew the song well. “Two Way Monologue” showcased a catchy, fun beat and Lerche’s exceptional guitar solos.

AIR is Frenchmen Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel. Their music is glossy and nuanced, simultaneously classic and modern. It’s music whose character is vulnerable to the idiosyncrasies of live performance.

So, the Parisian duo brought with them a battery of analogue keyboards, computers, guitars, drum machines, and three other musicians to meticulously recreate their atmospheric soundscapes live. Overall, it was a success. The show rested on the strength of their previous records, especially Moon Safari and 10,000 Hz Legend. Crowd pleasers like “Kelly Watch the Stars” and “Remember” from Safari came alive with the full band (Godin and Dunckel plus three), flawlessly reproducing their studio sheen.

Yet, they are currently touring on the 2007 release of their fourth full-album, Pocket Symphony, and you wouldn’t know it from the evening’s set-list. Of the dozen-or-so tracks that they played, only three were from their newest release.

Pocket Symphony is an album whose muse was Japan, yet the live performances of the new material lacked the Koto and Shamisen, the traditional Japanese instruments that Godin learned to play for the record during the band’s three-year hiatus.

Even so, the new tracks were mostly a success in spite of their absence, yet songs like “Mer du Japon” lacked the strange, warbling pluck of the Koto that color the album version.

AIR is a band of self-proclaimed sonic perfectionists, and for the most part, they lived up to their reputation. Yet, it would have been nice if they could have given us a bigger taste of the country that inspired their latest release.

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