“Entertainment” (see video) was the first song that French sensation Phoenix threw at the audience last night. Down at the Crystal Ballroom, dancing on air, were hundreds of kids who’d paid top dollar; and they’d paid in a new way.At the door was a man with a credit-card swiper. Each person came up, gave him the card they’d paid with, and they were allowed in. Gone are the days of hearing someone barking outside of the venue for “tickets!”
The audience positively went wild whenever something played was familiar to them (read: anything from 2009′s “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.”) And starting the show off with two lead singles is a great way to engage an audience. The second song, from the aforementioned album, was the lead single, “Lisztomania,” (see video). The audience jumped with a familiar zeal. If I’d been here ten years ago and felt that way, you’d better believe that I’d be jumping, as well.
The first thing that stuck out to me about Phoenix’s performance came within a couple songs. Lead singer, Thomas Mars–can SING. The vocal range he has on the albums, though it may be somewhat limited there, is exactly what he has performing live. This wasn’t an interpretation of the sound they’ve honed for the last ten years; this is Phoenix™ brand pop music.
Although it took a few more songs for it to sink in, I was astounded at how well the rest of the band play. It’s not just accurate. Decent musicians can play accurately with enough practice. It’s a dead-on note-by-note representation of the oeuvre that Phoenix has crafted. As a drummer, I was expecting things to be problematic, or outright skipped, in certain parts of the songs. Simply knowing that their sound is one which is crafted in the studio. Not so. Every synth line. Every hiccuping percussive series of hits. Every vocal affectation to exaggerate the “Folded! Folded! Folded!” chant in “1901,” again, (see video).
The concert was jam-packed in the way you’d expect a successful, young band to set it up. At about an hour-and-a-half, the entire lineup, with the exception of “Long Distance Call,” which comes from their 2006 album, “It’s Never Been Like That.” Now, why they didn’t play the DECIDEDLY better (in my opinion) and MUCH more loved (by me) song from the same record, “Consolation Prizes,” is beyond me. That’s okay.
So that’s it. That was the only thing that derailed the W.A.P./Bankrupt! set. And I’m pretty sure, they played EVERY song from their new record. Which, I might point out, isn’t even out yet! The gall!
The iteration of “Love Like A Sunset I,’ which is the centerpiece of “W.A.P.,” was blended with some elements of the equally drone-laiden middle song from their new album, “Bankrupt!” to a beautiful simplicity. Flashing strobe lights we’d all been warned about outside the venue pounded at the sound of a thousand robots filtering through the streets arresting good-natured humans before the triumphantly-major “bummm! bummm bummmmmm” of “Love Like A Sunset II,” saves the day.
Winding through their hits can seem daunting at times, but at a scant three minutes a piece, it’s a harmless affair. Easy to digest and catchy enough that you don’t notice the minor flaws.
The main show ended with “1901.” The juggernaut that (arguably) made them. The crowd was more hyped up in this moment than they were at the beginning of the show, I swear to God. I’ve never seen a crowd get more and more excited as an hour-and-a-half winds along.
Then, it was all seemingly over. They left the stage at the end of “1901.”
“Well, what in the hell would they play for an encore,” I asked my friend Jessica. I quickly counted in my head all the songs I knew and it seemed like they’d tapped every source. But, after a few minutes, sure enough, they came back out. A small microphone adjustment and a little more subdued atmosphere led to a beautifully-broken down rendition of “Countdown.”
“Ohhh, yes.” We’d forgotten it. Similarly, we had forgotten “Rome,” and “Don’t.” But the show was wrapped up when Mars entered the crowd while the rest of the band thumped out the coda to the song they had opened the show with, “Entertainment.” It was poetic. And just as quickly as they’d starting, with their buzzing bass, synth lines and 1-2-3-4 snap of the snare, the show was over.
Phoenix know how to put on a show.