Photos/Review: AM at the Riviera Theater in Chicago, IL; 03.24.10

words and photos by Kirstie Shanley

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Not only was LA based AM hand-picked by French rockers Air to open for them on this tour but AM as a songwriter is worth showing up early for. Though AM as a lead singer with a backing band is far from the bombastic arena rock that Air can sometimes progress to, the strength of AM lies in his keen sense of melody and mood, which makes the songs even a little whimsical at times and more melancholy in other moments.

AM photo by Kirstie ShanleyIt was slightly different to hear the songs live than on album due to the absence of female vocals on tracks like “It’s Been So Long” as well as not having a live bass (though the keyboard did accomplish some of these bass notes.) The result of this was more of an emphasis on each engaging chord progression and an even lighter auditory presence, free from being weighed down by the heavier notes. AM has a voice that possesses a memorable tenor quality at times and made the songs even more engaging. He mainly played a more stripped down acoustic guitar throughout their 30 minute set, which was complemented by the keyboard and drums as the live band was presented as a trio this time around.

There was a little bit of variety in terms of the way the songs took shape and the way different instruments were emphasized throughout AM’s short but interesting set. In fact, the keyboard at times managed a more atmospheric element that made the compositions stronger. In contrast, for songs like “The Other Side,” a more sensitive low-key element took hold because of the use of ukulele as a center point. It became clear how well AM and the accompanying musicians can adeptly blend their influences and at the same time to be comprised of folk, rock, and pop genres simultaneously.

AM was able to talk a little bit between songs in a way that suggested a likeable and easy-going candid nature. It revealed a sense of comfort on stage and ability to make a connection with fans despite the large capacity of the venue. He told the audience about his original roots in New Orleans before he moved to LA and received quite a bit of applause from the crowd for that. Concentrating mainly on newest release Future Sons & Daughters, it was great to hear “Darker Days,” and “It’s Been So Long” especially. Perhaps the best decision of the set was to end with his strongest track “Self Preservation,” which inspired the audience to clap along to the rhythm and long for more as AM departed the stage.