Photo courtesy of Stereogum
Waaay earlier this month (Dec 3rd), Phoenix played a secret show for I Heart Radio at the PC Richard & Sons Theatre in Manhattan. Initially, my eyebrows shot up when I discovered that such a place even exists. Got lost the first half of the night, and ended up at the actual electronics store - which was filled with employees who had absolutely no clue what the hell I was talking about when I said "You guys have a music venue for shows and such, where is it?".
But after a few texts, I got there in time to catch the French phenoms perform and am now finally putting it on paper, or whatever. PMA was good enough to send me there and this is my report:
The short set was made up of "Lisztomania", "Long Distance Call", "Lasso", "Girlfriend", "Playground Love", and "1901".
These guys were particularly natural on stage, giving off the aura of casual familiarity with their situation - as if they were merely playing a garden party for some of their closest friends as opposed to being in front of a bunch of rabid strangers eating up their every indie-hyped move. They were also quite humble and unassuming, quietly thanking and bowing to the audience in an almost unbelievably stunned appreciation for our praise. It was kind of fascinating to watch.
But then all eyeballs locked on to drummer Thomas Hedlund, who played the holy hell out of everything with animated fervor. You wanted to keep going back to him, despite lead vocalist Thomas Mars' busy movement around the stage. Guitarist Christian Mazalai was obscured from view of anyone (me) standing in the back, stage left by a cameraman, but his presence was still felt in the small space. Everything was sharp, crisp and clear, much like on the album. People say that if the band plays it exactly like you're listening to the record on your iPod, it's not a great show. Well fuck that. Sometimes you want to feel like what's on your iPod has come to life right in front of you, and Phoenix does that. Much like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix as a whole, the band's performance was near-perfect. This is an opinion that may differ minutely across the board, but for the most part it holds true. It's lovely to dance to something that not only deserves, but trancends the hype. (I said it)
Despite their causual demeanor, they had fun playing their music for us. The production value on this thing was ace, as usual. Simple, yet envigorating - a great, wide-open set up meant we could see everything that was going on up close and appreciate what each member brought to the table.
They were tricky, slowing down for an uber-second with a sort of cover of Air's "Playground Love", which, Mars revealed, the band had co-written. Then they ramped it back up again with the hit of the year "1901" for the show closer, which got everyone so pumped, it was hard for us to believe that was it when they left the stage and didn't come back. People literally stood around for fifteen minutes in cold confusion before filtering out.
Phoenix had the nerve to be nominated for a Grammy for 'Best Alternative Album' and are currently still on tour until the end of March. If you're out that way, their next stop is The Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, Canada w/ You Say Party! We Say Die! on the 22nd of January. Then Seattle, Washington at the Showbox SoDo w/ The Soft Pack on the 23rd.