Phoenix is one of those seemingly untouchable bands that I had built up in my head to be a pretty darn big deal. Yet, I hadn’t dug into the band enough to really be super stoked about the prospect of seeing them. I had to admit that their drummer looked like he was having a blast when I watched footage of the Letterman performance of “1901,” though.
Something changed in the past year, and I found myself at Express! Live last week.
Lo Moon, a band that has created unbelievable buzz with, as of that show, only two singles released into the wild (a third, “Thorns, was released a few days after the show) opened the show with a riveting performance of their dark pop. At times the music was hypnotic, at times bordering on groovy – yet not all the way there. For me, the music demanded my attention rather than movement, and those in the audience seemed to concur.
Phoenix delivered a what was by many accounts just a fun set. The creative production of a light up stage reflected in a mirror slanted just-so to create a bird’s eye view of the band was really enjoyable to watch. CD1025 president Randy Malloy advised me before the set not to go to the balcony, lest I might miss out on an “amazing” stage effect. Good advice, sir.
Phoenix’s set list was understandably biased in favor of their most recent release Ti Amo, opening with the current radio single “J-Boy.” However, a healthy smattering of favorites from other portions of their discography peppered the set, in some cases forming interludes that created transcendent moments for yours truly. These kinds of moments are increasingly rare for me to come across due to the volume of shows I attend, so I appreciate them that much more. A new twist on the title track of Bankrupt! was one of those for me. Other fun moments included the adrenaline inducing “Lasso” and the effervescent “Lovelite.”
By far my two favorite people to watch onstage where vocalist Thomas Mars and drummer Thomas Hedlund. Mars exhibits sort of an “aw shucks” stage persona, but backing up his otherwise humble stage presence with on point vocals. Note that “humble” in this context doesn’t mean boring. At the end of the show, during a drawn out jam session, he walked around the audience, walking on top of the pit showgoers, repeating expressing his thanks to the crowd. And Hedlund’s enthusiasm was unrelenting and aggressive. And the enthusiasm of a drummer can transform an atmosphere at a show, in my opinion.