Last night’s Phoenix concert at The Slowdown will rank as one of my top-5 favorite shows of 2009. Unlike last weekend’s Bon Iver show, I knew what to expect since I’ve been enjoying Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album for most of the year. There weren’t a lot of surprises. The band came on stage at around 9:15 and proceeded to ignite the sold-out crowd for almost 80 minutes, including a 4-song encore.
The staging was the usual multi-colored strobe bars that were synced with the music; but just as dynamic was the six-man band of Frenchies strutting around like a posse of hipster messiahs dead set on breaking all the little girls’ (and a few little boys’) hearts. Musically, they were dead-on. Frontman Thomas Mars has one of the most distinctive (and thankfully not unpleasant) voices in current-day indie rock — a bright, cutting croon that fits the band’s Euro backbeat flair. Mars is a cool customer, lying down on the stage during a taut instrumental performed about halfway through the night’s set. One could argue that the band’s drummer is their secret weapon, and one would be right — just a terrific, clean, unobtrusive style.
These guys have been compared to The Killers, and I can see where people might think that, especially when they stray from the dancier stuff and try to “rock.” But ultimately, Phoenix has brighter, poppier and more endearing songs that don’t sound as commercially forced as what The Killers have been throwing out there for the past few years. A friend of mine from Lincoln said to expect the place to turn into a dance party, but I guess he forgot that he was talking about Omaha. The crowd didn’t get into it until late in the set, and even then it was the typical shoulder-shrug sort of thing, occasionally punctuated by hands in the air (especially during the encore) — far from the fevered madness that we’re all used to at Faint concerts. I couldn’t help but think that I was seeing what eventually will become an arena band in just a few years. Phoenix has been around since the late-’90s and currently records for V2 in the U.S., a division of Universal Music Group. I suspect that they’ll be getting the full major-label treatment moving forward (if they aren’t already). Photo by Megan McIsaac.
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Tomorrow: Lincoln Calling’s growing pains…
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