Phoenix bedazzle at the State Theatre, 8/12/10
August 12, 2010
It felt a bit like Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the State last night, what with the blinding and sometimes disorienting light show that was brought to bear inside the old downtown theater. The main difference of course was that, rather than extraterrestrials of a higher being coming down from the heavens with an obscure five-note melody, the foreign visitors were a half-dozen charming, slightly shaggy Frenchman with little more in mind than getting an audience moving through some irresistibly tuneful dance-pop.
The fact that the show was bookended at its very beginning by "Lisztomania" and at the end of the encore by "1901" seemed entirely fitting, not only because Phoenix had a giant cut-out bomb from the cover of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix hanging at the back of the stage but because those are the band's two most recognizable hits. They also were the songs that had the audience singing along the most, not to mention throwing their hands into the air and dancing about in their seats.
In between, there was something hit-or-miss about the performance. Granted, the problem wasn't especially the fault of the band: Thomas Mars certainly had little trouble making the crowd swoon, delivering his tenor with an effortless cool, often standing with hips cocked as he twirled the mike cord around his hands and cast a detached leer into the room from beneath his gentle mess of hair. Guitarists Laurent Brancowitz and Chrisitian Mazzalai frequently produced fireworks between each other, especially on the moody instrumental "Love Like a Sunset," although even as drummer Thomas Hedlun played with consistently reckless abandon there was little doubt of Mars' being the most electrifying force.
It was all very chic and generally pleasing to the ear, but while the State's baroque interior seemed fitting for these lads' stylish brand of indie music, the venue didn't do the band any favors. There was too much echo throughout the show, which did the worst damage to Mars, whose words were usually unintelligible even if his tones weren't entirely drowned out. The other major problem was that all the seats kept everyone standing in one place, preventing the massive dance party that the songs (pulled mostly off Wolfgang) begged to have happen.
It was really only toward the end of the set and particularly during "1901" that the barrier between the band and the audience fully came down, said song's near-ten-minute rendition seeing Mars wander up the center isle of the theatre and climb up into the audience, glowing red cord in tow. He then disappeared back onto stage where he and the rest of the band thrashed about in a prism of lights with as much verve as they could muster.
Perhaps Phoenix made it all seem a bit easy (at times they needed those lights to make up for standing mostly in one place), and perhaps the setting wasn't perfect, but it was hard to feel too disappointed all the same.
Personal Bias: Never being ready for a concert to start at 7:30, which is what lone opener Toro y Moi did.
The Crowd: I apparently missed the memo about it being Date Night.
Random Notebook Dump: Climb on amp - Fold arms - Jump off - Yay! Applause
Overheard in the Crowd: "You're sitting in my seat." (Not so much overheard as directed at me.)
For more photos: See the full slideshow by Tony Nelson.
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