There is a funny scene in episode 4 of the 2016 documentary series “Touche Francaise” (French Touch), about the French electronic music scene, where DJ and journalist Ariel Wizman describes Air’s sound as music made by guys who “have never been in a fight” and who “live in a neighborhood where nothing dangerous ever happens.” Air’s Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel did not take issue with that description; indeed, for the past 20 years they seem to have embraced it. Air is all about the gentle, easygoing vibes, and that was certainly the case at their recent show at the Greek Theater, the final show of their first U.S. tour since 2010. Touring in support of last year’s double album “Twentyears,” a retrospective of their 20-year career since the release of their debut EP “Premiers Symptômes” in July 1997 (and debut album “Moon Safari,” released shortly thereafter), Air brought out all the hits but kept it cool throughout. From the moment the steady, plodding beat of the song “Venus” echoed through the amphitheater, it was time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the perfect soundtrack to a warm summer evening outdoors.
Throughout “Venus” and for the next 12 songs, including hits such as “Cherry Blossom Girl,” “Playground Love,” “Run,” “Alone in Kyoto,” and “Alpha Beta Gaga,” Air kept it chill, but never boring. Godin and Dunckel were joined by a full band playing live drums, guitars, and keyboards – Godin even played banjo at one point – and were backed by a colorful light show that added the perfect ambiance to their trippy, space-age music. The crowd remained engaged throughout, cheering for favorite songs and swaying along to the beats but never going nuts; that, is, until the first encore, “How Does It Make You Feel?” when Air brought out a group of past collaborators to join them on vocals. Among the vocalists were Jason Falkner and Beck, the latter of whom drove the crowd absolutely insane as soon as he stepped on stage. All of a sudden the blissful and relaxed atmosphere gave way to an electric energy that continued through the rest of “How Does It Make You Feel?” and into the final two songs of the night, the pulsating “Sexy Boy” and the funky “La Femme d’Argent.” Typical of Air, just when you think they’re about to lull you to sleep, they turn around and surprise you.
The last two songs were a clever choice to close the show, as they are the first two songs on Air’s first album: like many great stories, the end circled back and became the beginning. So what is next for Air? That answer remains unclear. Godin, who is in the midst of recording a solo album, has said in interviews that Air is not planning on recording new material any time soon. If that is the case, this past tour proved a fitting commemoration of the band’s 20 years of success.
Words and Photos by: DJ Fifi LaRoux