Special times at MHOW last night. For their part, Phoenix never fail to play like a band fully convinced of its undeniability, whether touring on the back of their more ebullient synth-pop (United), shadowy soft rock (Alphabetical), or their jangled and silky Parisian take on Strokes rock (It’s Never Been Like That). At shows behind each album, the song list’s deepened but little’s changed about their slick playing and engaging stoicism leavened with Thom Mars’s occasional kneeling, stage scampering, and mic stand trickery, or their rotating drummers’ excitement just to be there. And yet things have changed since their last time through NYC when they ripped into Bowery as part of some cigarette company’s live music series: Now it’s not just the band that walks into the room convinced of its standing before a note, it’s everybody that walks into the room to see them.
That’s what happens when you put out a couple of the year’s strongest singles, and an album that dances the line between critical tongue baths and weekend warriors’ party mixes. Hands were in the air only, fans were frenzied for the songs that bookended the set (“Lisztomania” and “Long Distance Call” at the top, a “Funky Squaredance”-reprising “If I Ever Feel Better” and an extended “1901” which saw Mars swallowed by the crowd to close), and mouthed words to the more moody and meandering deep cuts.
When even the spaces between songs are applauded, it’s not just about the band tearing it up (which of course, they did). One of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix‘s song titles suggest they’ve been thinking about their music’s manic effect on a crowd, and last night illustrated why that is pretty perfectly.
Space has gotta be reserved here for the night’s opening act, Lightspeed Champion aka Dev Hynes, the once Test Icicle (and now apparently once folkie), who’s shifted his musical costume once again and to occasionally great results. Some songs washed off quickly (particularly they one he wrote last Tuesday — “what did you do last Tuesday?” wasn’t the best way to encourage compassionate ears), but others were alternatingly epic, rock-soulful, and surprisingly Bowie-redolent. An impressive set that concluded with Dev making handy work of a faithful take on Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heels.” Strong cover choice aside, whatever it is he’s working on for this next album seems worth staying tuned for.
Anyway, if you’re one of the lucky ones headed to Terminal 5 tonight or some other Phoenix stop this tour, here’s what last night’s discog-spanning setlist looked like:
02 “Long Distance Call”
03 “Consolation Prizes”
05 “Napoleon Says”
06 “Funky Squaredance”
10 “Love Like A Sunset”
11 “Run Run Run ”
12 “Too Young”
13 “Sometimes In The Fall”
15 “If I Ever Feel Better”
Here’s some “Enter Sandman” > “Lisztomania” from last night’s soundcheck (via Fader):
Also, they just did a bunch of TV.
[Photos by Natasha Ryan]