Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Phoenix Shows Off New Songs For an Elated Crowd at the Independent, 4/1/13

Posted By on Tue, Apr 2, 2013 at 3:30 AM

click to enlarge Phoenix at the Independent last night. - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Phoenix at the Independent last night.

Phoenix

Mac DeMarco

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Independent

Better than: Watching Phoenix play on a giant LCD screen from a mile away.

Later this month, Phoenix will headline the second night of Coachella, playing for about 80,000 people. A few months after that, the band will get virtually top billing in Chicago for Lollapalooza. But last night, the French electro-rockers took over the 500-capacity Independent in San Francisco, giving the tightly crammed audience a taste of their new album at a thrillingly close range.

There won't be many stops on Phoenix's U.S. tour where singer Thomas Mars can hop offstage, wade through the throngs of fans to the far corner of the room, bask in applause, then crowd-surf his way back to the stage. But he did last night, amid a barrage of phone-camera flashes and cheers, riding over fans with mic in hand to bring Phoenix's 90-minute set to one final, elated climax.

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

The show's focus was largely on upcoming album Bankrupt!, which sees release April 23. We heard eight of the album's 10 songs, from skyrocketing first single "Entertainment" to the slow and heavy, head-nodding "Drakkar Noir." That and "Chloroform" -- which sews glassy verses between a fierce, driving chorus -- made for a couple of the high points of the night. Other new tunes, like "S.O.S. in Bel Air" and "Oblique City," sounded at least as buoyant and a little prettier than the deeper cuts on Phoenix's last album, 2009's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. So it seems likely that the band's membership in that rarefied club of major festival headliners will continue beyond this summer. (Matching the U.S. radio success of singles "1901" and "Lisztomania," however, may be a different story -- although the band members are claiming they don't care about that.)

Last night's relatively pared-down set -- six musicians and plenty of strobe lights, but no major setpieces -- revealed some of the more subtle strengths of the group. These guys are consummate professionals, engaging in precious few indulgences onstage. Even then, they're entertaining: During the brooding, instrumental "The Real Thing," Mars laid down onstage for the entirety of the song, remaining invisible to most of the audience. For the encore, he and guitarist Christian Mazzalai performed the heartfelt "Rome" alone, with Mars' seated, feet dangling off into the crowd, fans singing along inches from his face.

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Phoenix's music wastes almost no time, either -- it rarely lingers or navel-gazes, even when it leans (you will probably read this word a lot in regard to Bankrupt!) "psychedelic." Every bit of a Phoenix song is deeply textured and gorgeously rendered. The band members seem to leap into fist-pumping, anthemic choruses almost reflexively. With those loud-quiet dynamics, the glassy-then-fuzzy guitars, and muscular synthesizers, it's no wonder Phoenix is experiencing blockbuster success right now. Its sound and presence are about the closest modern rock gets to the electronic dance music experience. There is endless energy, reliable climaxes and breakdowns, and a live show that puts entertainment before anything else. The rhythm is the boss, too: Onstage last night, the hardest working member seemed to be touring drummer Thomas Hedlund. Other musicians got closer to the crowd, but his ferocious thumping -- Hedlund hit the toms so hard he yanked his butt off the drum throne -- felt like the leash to which everything else in the music conformed.

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Of course, that's a perfect schema for a band designed to play to a small city's worth of people. And if last night was any indication, the high point of Phoenix's shows this year will come exactly where you'd expect: the ripping, soaring chorus of "1901." Arriving last in the band's main set, it sent the sweaty room into an instant eruption. Arms shot into the air. Ladies hopped up and down. Fans who'd somehow managed to snag tickets -- either in the 10-second window during which they were initially for sale, or elsewhere for much higher prices -- roared in elation. Lots of people will see Phoenix play its mega-hit single this year, but very few will get it in such an intimate environment.

Critic's Notebook

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

Opener: Mac DeMarco, a grinning, 22-year-old rock weirdo from Montreal, seems an odd choice for Phoenix's tour opener. While the French headliners exude a cool confidence, DeMarco specializes in simmering chaos, with a freakish streak that's only hinted at in his subdued, slightly funky beach-rock. Last night's opening set aired rough versions of all the DeMarco tunes that impressed Pitchfork, then saw the musician and his band engaging in their usual antics, like a medley of covers that included Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and the Beatles' "Blackbird." DeMarco is captivating to watch onstage -- he flicks his tongue constantly and flashes wide, gap-toothed smiles. But his music, which can be great, is far more shambolic, indulgent, and unpredictable than Phoenix's. Some in the crowd seemed to enjoy it, but others definitely didn't.

Speaking of covers: Phoenix's encore included a cover of fellow French outfit Air's "Playground Love," which was written for the group's score to the Sophia Coppola film The Virgin Suicides. Coppola, by the way, is married to Phoenix singer Thomas Mars, and she was rumored to be in attendance last night. We couldn't see from where we were standing, but it looked like Mars was heading for a curtained-off VIP perch -- and thus perhaps his wife -- when he went on that crowd-parting/crowd-surfing excursion after playing the Air cover.

click to enlarge CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio

By the way: Phoenix performed at S.F.'s Outside Lands festival in 2010, on the mainstage in the middle of the afternoon. Given that last night's set in a tiny club is only going to whet San Francisco's appetite for the band, that it has no other Bay Area dates announced, and that it has no other U.S. live dates for the weekend of August 9-11 -- but will be in Chicago for Lollapalooza the previous weekend -- it wouldn't surprise us at all if Phoenix lands a headlining slot at Outside Lands this year.

Setlist:

Entertainment

Lisztomania

Lasso

Long Distance Call

S.O.S. in Bel Air

Girlfriend

Trying To Be Cool

Drakkar Noir

Chloroform

The Real Thing

Sunskrupt!

Fences

Oblique City

Don't

Armistice

1901

---

Rome [with Air's "Playground Love" in the middle]

[Instrumental Finale]

-- @iPORT


  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Ian S. Port

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook

Slideshows

  • Phish at the Bill Graham Auditorium
    Phish is in the midst of a block of sold out shows at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (October 27-29). The Monday night concert featured a rare first set opener of “Walfredo” with the band members switching instruments for the song. The evening’s highlights included John Fishman and his iconic vacuum cleaner solo and favorites such as Chalk Dust Torture, Slave to the Traffic Light, Axilla, Rift, 2001 Space Odyssey, and Maze. The show also featured Phish’s debut of a, seemingly impromptu, version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to with roaring approval of the, singing along, crowd. With Game 6 being tonight, partying Phish fans will join Giants fans in Civic Center Plaza where there will be a World Series viewing party on a large screen set up by the City. Photography by Jamie Soja.
  • The 4th Annual Masquerotica 2014 - NSFW
    The theme this year was Carnaval Mystique for the 4th Annual Masquerotica at The Factory. Attendees were entertained by strip dance, trapeze, and live music. Photographs by Calibree Photography.