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Arriving through Cardiff City Council’s ever-expanding bus station is not the best entry to a gig, but this was one evening that we did not expect. Excited at the prospect of seeing the Airborne Toxic Event for their third Cardiff gig (the first two at the now defunct Barfly) and seeing them last year at Bristol Anson Rooms with their full stage set, how would they cope with the smaller venue again? The Millennium Music Hall is a seemingly compact intimate venue, but it holds some 800 or so all able to see the stage and enjoy the superb sound system.

Before we could see the answer to our question, the charming chap behind what is fast-becoming Cardiff’s busiest live venue (apparently known as Budgie to his friends) told us to be ready for a surprise…what a surprise! Leaping onto the stage as support was none other than Johnny Borrell with his new band (not Razorlight mark 2) but currently with no name, according to Freddie the new bass player sporting a fabulous stovepipe hat and looking like a wild-west frontiersman. Playing a handful of smaller venues, this band is becoming tight and loud.
Borrell and his band opened with Somewhere Else, a rousing start with a fiercer driven sound, followed up with In the Morning and then they ploughed through some of the back catalogue including Stumble and Fall, plus some cracking new songs..watch out for Killer Casanova. A full set of 10 tracks for those who bothered to turn up for the support band! A lesson for us all perhaps?
Sounding at times like a young Lou Reed and wearing his trademark white vest, shimmying around the stage with verve and passion, linking closely with his new band, Borrell looked at home and back to his best. The sound is heavier, harder, a bit rougher and I can see “the Band with No Name” and their charismatic frontman back to the top very soon. Catch them wherever you can…

Proudly sporting his Spillers Records T shirt that he kept pointing at, Daren sat down behind his kit as the Airborne Toxic Event launched straight into Wishing Well , the perfect song with the words “get on the f**ing train and leave today”…with so many parked buses outside the venue, but I suspect that was lost on this hard-working, creative indie band from LA. Immediately currying favour with the Cardiff crowd (Mikel said that the Welsh were the best looking in the UK, to loud cheers), they ran through an exhausting set that early on showed them showcase some new tracks form their as-yet untitled forthcoming 2011 album: Numb, Welcome to your Wedding day (this one will grow and grow in the live shows) before they crashed headlong into Something New.
Unexpectedly, during a lively version of Missy and with a wicked glint in his eye Mikel and this clever band slipped into a country version of Springsteen’s I’m on Fire followed by a rockabilly of Johnny Cash Folsom Prison Blues with the band flinging themselves into their work, deserving of so much bigger audiences (Michael Eavis, take note).
With almost no break except the slightly quieter Doesn’t Mean a Thing, referring to his parents’ generation, this practised and polished group of excellent and talented musicians kept the crowd whipped up with a run through Happiness in Overrated, Gasoline, Papillon, Does this Mean You’re Moving on? before the huge favourite anthem Sometime around Midnight, with the swooping viola of Anna Bulbrook, the sweeping guitar of Steve Chen and the melodic bass of Noah Harmon added to the pounding drums laid down by Daren Taylor complementing the at times raucous vocals of Mikel Jolet, this was a happy, ecstatic, jumping Millennium Music Hall. All I Ever Wanted was followed by Mikel proclaiming that he became a musician so he could perform songs like Innocence…a snapshot of the Airborne Toxic Event themselves: carefully crafted, clever, artistic and then driven and loud with a heart and rhythm that would stand up alongside any band anywhere and really deserves worldwide recognition.
Thanking the audience for their continued support, Mikel commented that they are not played on the radio in the UK, so have no exposure to the mass market. With this sort of commitment and energy (can there be a band anywhere that gives more than the ATE?) they will be so big soon…Glastonbury has to be their next port of call.

Words and photos: PJ