The dazzling rise of Phoenix makes much more sense once you see them live. They’re one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen, managing with impressive talent to balance crowd pleasing tunes with sheer musical genius.
They open the show with the enormous sound of ‘Entertainment’ off their latest album, and within seconds they’ve got Brixton Academy in the palm of their hands. ‘Lasso’ and ‘Lisztomania’ follow with the same frenzy and dedication. It’s rare to see a band of this stature obviously enjoying themselves on stage. The minimal look of the stage with the drums overlooking it reminded me of The Strokes when I saw them three years ago. And while the New Yorkers seemed to be effortlessly cool, with Casablancas hiding behind dark glasses, Thomas Mars and co. come across as much more authentic in a way and definitely putting a lot of effort in trying to be cool. Not only are they super cool but their smiles throughout the show make them look genuinely honoured to playBrixtonAcademy.
Of course, Phoenix are something of an exception in the French music landscape. With Daft Punk and Air (more on them later), they’re the only French group to ever have really enjoyed success outside their natal country. And judging by their self-assurance on stage, I wouldn’t be too surprised if in ten years time they were playing stadiums. Their sound is that big and their songs are that immediate and powerful that this seems to be the only way for them to go. Ultimately, their modesty might be their greatest strength, and coupled with a fierce determination to succeed, it looks like Phoenix are heading straight to superstardom.
During the epic Sunskrupt!, a mashup of sorts between ‘Love Like A Sunset’ and ‘Bankrupt!’, the background screen takes us on a ride along the Champs-Élysées in Paris, which prompts the French part of the audience to shout proudly.
The crowning moment of the evening comes during the encore. “We’ve got a surprise for you”, Thomas Mars says with a smile. Nicolas Godin of Air, dressed in a long beige coat, then makes his way onto the stage. Making himself at home, he takes off his coat and sits behind a keyboard to accompany Mars on ‘Love Playground’ from The Virgin Suicides soundtrack.
After such a highlight, it feels almost too demanding to ask for more, but sure enough the whole band comes back on stage and we are treated to some of Phoenix’s earliest songs including the funked up ‘Funky Squaredance’ which Thomas Mars introduces thusly: “This is supposed to be a disco song, so if you feel like dancing…”
Live favourite ‘Rome’ brings the show to an end with Mars jumping into the audience and a reprise of ‘Entertainment’ has the whole crowd chanting along. This closes in spectacular fashion a show that confounded all my expectations. I never thought I’d ever say that, but these guys make me proud to be French.
By Brice Detruche.