Phoenix delivers at the Paradise

A review of Phoenix at Paradise Rock Club on June 16, 2009

, Staff Writer

Phoenix have been getting a lot of attention lately. Their latest release, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is being hailed by critics of every stripe as one of the best records of the year, and the French electro-alternative quartet have become the new indie darlings here in the States. Wednesday night’s sold-out performance at the Paradise was a groovin’ dance party with an edge.

Kicking things off with “Lisztomania,” the poppy, bouncing star of Wolfgang Amadeus, Phoenix brought forward a heavier, louder sound than you might expect from a band with such pop tendencies. Make no mistake, Phoenix is a rock band that play pop tunes, not a pop band that plays rock tunes. Using a synthesizer may add a certain lightness to things, but the underscoring thunder of drums and electric guitars brought the performance to life. The relaxed groove of “If I Ever Feel Better” had an extra thump to it, and heavier tunes like “Consolation Prize,” were loud and wonderful.

Full disclosure: I hadn’t heard Phoenix until Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix started getting hyped, and I was called in to cover this show at the last minute. It’s strange being at a sold-out show for a band you’ve barely heard. More than one person around me knew most, if not all of the words to every song, and before the concert a group of hipsters next to me stood around arguing over who heard them first. I guess I’m a little more skeptical of an act whose audience is already won over. That said, as a near-illiterate of their catalogue, I was totally blown away.

Phoenix puts on a performance that is just electrifying. Pushing the Paradise’s lighting rig to the brink, sound and sight were combined to effectively accompany and even enhance the performance. Things flashed and banged alongside “Napoleon Says,” while the calm tones during “Love Like A Sunset” brought everyone to a content standstill. Vocalist Thomas Mars has a quiet, unassuming air to him that he somehow channels into a remarkable energy while he’s singing. Dressed in a short-sleeved collared shirt, he’s a quiet kind of frontman with a mop of brown hair and a hell of a voice.

The hour-long set was a fired-up run through the band’s catalogue that seemed to please even the most hardcore fans. After jamming through “Run Run Run” from 2004’s Alphabetical, Phoenix closed the set with “Rome,” a positive jam from Wolfgang Amadeus that led to a two minute break, followed by “If I Ever Feel Better,” and “1901”. Thomas Mars had an enormous smile on his face as the band waved goodbye to a crowd that just wouldn’t stop screaming.

Openers Amazing Baby were a heavier rock band that put on a killer show to get things going. Mixing classic rock sensibilities with a little dose of Bowie, they were totally awesome. They have a new album called Rewild. Check it out.

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