Phoenix at 1STBANK Center, 8/7/13
Brandon Marshall Phoenix on stage last night at 1STBANK Center.
PHOENIX @ 1STBANK CENTER | 8/7/13
Last night at 1STBANK, when the repeating bell-like sounds at the beginning of Phoenix's biggest hit "Lisztomania" rung out, the crowd roared expectedly and the outfit almost didn't have to sing at all. As everybody sang along with every word, you could tell that it further enlivened the band, which had already done a great job of keeping the energy up for the bulk of its set, no doubt aware of the heightened expectations for this show, which had been moved from Red Rocks.
See also: Phoenix at the Bluebird, 6/26/09
At some point during the show, frontman Thomas Mars acknowledged that change in venues but noted how inclement weather would have meant the show was canceled and it was better to have moved the show and said that it would be epic anyway. And he and the band set about keeping that promise with a light show that didn't just enhance the visual presence of the band but of the room itself with bright columns of colored light on stage and beaming out into the venue.
The show opened with the Bowie-esque "Entertainment." Right out of the gate, Phoenix set a high bar for the rest of the show with a raw and exuberant delivery of music that has clearly been honed and distilled to the richness and clarity of layers working this perfectly together. It was a refreshing juxtaposition. This was pop music that felt like it was being played with no filters on its source in the heart of the songwriters.
Phoenix delivered hits like "Lisztomania" and the main set closer "1901" and rounded the rest of the set out with album cuts from 2009's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and its latest effort, Bankrupt!. To that end, during the last half of the show, the act played the Cluster/Kraftwerk-like "Love Like A Sunset Part I & II," and to the crowd's credit, even those who might only be more familiar with the band's pop songs, people were clearly into it and seemed happy when Mars delivered the handful of lyrics near the end.
The most compelling moment was during "The Real Thing." That song took some sounds you'd expect in a Laurie Anderson song and mixed them with more conventional melodies while weaving in minor chord progressions. Not many groups with such a wide appeal write music in which the transitions and soundscaping are interesting for anyone generally turned off by obvious pop music. "S.O.S. In Bel Air" also felt like a band playing with the pop song format, writing something that could articulate contrasting emotions, and not just with words, but with how the sounds were structured and mixed together.
The music seemed to be written with this large format presentation in mind the whole time. Even early songs like "Too Young," which many people first heard on the soundtrack of Lost in Translation, sounded like it was meant to be experienced most fully in this kind of setting. And hearing intelligent lyrics in such deeply catchy music with such a colorful and dramatic a performance made the show all the better.
Keep reading for a Critic's Notebook and a review of Dinosaur Jr.'s set