Phoenix' Thomas Mars @ Phoenix Concert Theatre: photo by Michael Ligon
With French pop band Phoenix having played venues in Toronto like The Opera House(in 2005) and The Mod Club(in 2006), not to mention Olympic Island (as part of the 2006 Toronto Virgin Festival), it was only a matter of time, for the novelty of it all, that they'd eventually play the Phoenix, which they did yesterday evening. I mean how perfect is that? On the heels of their most recent album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix", the band played to a sold out show. As I'd posted recently regarding Phoenix at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona I thought they were perhaps the most fun act of Day One, a not necessarily easy task considering the size of the audience they were playing to, but playing within the relatively more intimate confines of the Phoenix, they virtually brought down the house.
Opening the show was Brooklyn's Amazing Baby, who mostly based on album reviews like this recent NOW review, didn't entirely motivate me to show up early. Most descriptions of the band I've read seem to thrown around terms like glam, psychedelic and shoegaze but for the few brief songs I did actually catch them perform, I wasn't particularly engrossed, although not because of a lack of musicianship. Had I not been so impatient to see Phoenix, perhaps I'd have paid more attention, but it was not to be that day.
The setlist obviously leaned heavily on the band's most recent album, stepping back to their previous album for several audience favourites, as well as reaching back to older favourites like 'Run, Run, Run'(from their second album "Alphabetical") and 'Too Young'(from their debut "United"). While I've only been spinning the new album only for a few days now, it's surprising how quickly the new songs have sunk in, matching if not surpassing the quality of their past work in melding pop melodicism and danceability. Just about every song they performed sounded like it could be a hit, buoyant pop songs led by bouncy rhythms, sprightly played guitar and keyboards and lead vocalist Thomas Mars bright vocals. The sonic aside of instrumental piece 'Love Like A Sunset' with its ambient introduction which gradually built up till the guitar and drums settled into a sultry rhythmic groove made it a sort-of an intermissive piece if anyone was tiring of the their vocal-based pop songs. But that was far from the case for the crowd who to me felt like the band could have played for another hour longer than they did and not tire of them one bit. In fact, the audience repsonse after one song was so overwhelming that Thomas Mars seemed genuinely almost choked up, his only response was to stand up there, soak it up and grin. The made-for-singalong '1901' is perhaps the best song on the new album, and a-not-too-surprising choice to close out the encore and the show, prompting the audience to shout out "hey-hey-hey-hey-hey-hey" and repeat "falling, falling, falling, falling" at the appropriate times, with raised hands and pumping fists to only emphasize the euphoric point. But as that song drew to a close, it seemed that out of spontaneity, the band decided to play on and Thomas jumped down to the floor to frolic amongst the audience before jumping back onto the stage as the audience cheered on. It might sound cliched but it was the best show of the year so far and whereas I'd expected NXNE to be my unofficial start to my summer good times, Phoenix's show stepped in and kicked it off with a bang.
Photos: Phoenix @ Phoenix Concert Theatre (June 15, 2009)