LA rock band The Airborne Toxic Event, formed by singer Mikel Jollet in 2006, is named for a famous passage in Don DeLillo’s 1985 White Noise novel—but you could be forgiven if your mind turned a certain pandemic affecting our current moment. Nevertheless, an exuberant audience greeted the act, known for its forays into orchestral arrangements, when it played Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, July 16. (The venue checks vax cards and requires masks.)
Opening with “Hollywood Park” Jollet, with Daren Taylor on drums and percussion, Steven Chen on guitar and piano, Adrian Rodirguez on bass, piano, guitar, and Miriam Peschet on violin and keyboards, garnered a standing ovation. The band’s melodic and confessional songs lent themselves well to the depths and talents of the Symphony, conducted by Bruce Anthony Kiesling. There’s just no equivalent to the sound generated by the basses, cellos, violins, harp, and woodwinds.
Fans sang, clapped, cheered, and shouted encouragement. In return, Jollet repeatedly expressed his gratitude and appreciation for both the Symphony and the crowd. Saturday also marked Jollet’s wedding anniversary, and he offered a touching message to his wife in the audience.
The Airborne Toxic Event show is part of the San Francisco Symphony’s ongoing collaborations with pop and indie music and figures, such as Steve Hackman’s Brahms v. Radiohead in 2019. While Brahms v. Radiohead offered a fascinating exploration of different musical genres, the Radiohead sound could have benefited from more electric instruments. Saturday’s show proved that a full band and orchestra can complement each other beautifully.
The San Francisco Symphony 2022 summer series continues includes diverse programing such as upcoming Pixar in Concert (Sat/23), Pink Martini with the Symphony (July 28), and West Side Story Symphonic Dances (August 4). —Patty Riek