I Went to a Phoenix Concert and Made 14-Year-Old Me So Proud
Phoenix was not my favorite band in 2014, the first time I saw them live, but after a sweaty night in the huge Lollapalooza crowd in São Paulo, they quickly climbed to number one on the list of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. To my surprise, last Tuesday, the French pop-rock group was able to outdo themselves at a show on their Ti Amo tour at the House of Blues — and, once again, secure their title as the first spot on that same list.
What continues to strike me about the band’s concert style is that they have no qualms about opening with what’s clearly the most popular song of each record. Many indie bands will usually save their bigger hits of the tour to close their shows, leaving the audience with a high-energy goodbye. Thomas Mars, lead singer of the group, knows this isn’t necessary at a Phoenix concert: there is no need to end on an amped-up banger if the entire concert sustains a roaring fervor. In 2014, they started the crowd off with the highest possible energy, opening with “Entertainment” off 2013’s Bankrupt!. Last week at the House of Blues, it was “J-Boy,” the synthy single they released last April to promote their album Ti Amo, which debuted last summer.
On from “J-Boy,” the band included old classics like “Rally” and popular songs off the incredibly successful Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the album that first introduced me to the band in 2009. Songs like “Rome” and “Armistice” and, of course, the well-known hit “Lisztomania,” were always playing from the earbuds of my iPod Nano, as, at an awkward twelve years of age, I was discovering what kind of music I liked. It filled me with a both sense of accomplishment and simply a desire to laugh as I jumped around to these tunes, now 21 years old, looking back at just how much I thought everything mattered when I first got into this band’s songs.
Mixed in with their old hits were also funky tracks off Bankrupt! including a banging mashup of “Trying to Be Cool” and “Drakkar Noir.” Their songs are so naturally danceable, and, mixed with the heat in the crowd and my screaming every lyric at the top of my lungs, I thought for a hot second that I was about to pass out. Thomas Mars, the sensitive man that he must be, definitely knew that this must have been the case for many in the crowd (and for himself as well), so the band included a five minute interlude in the middle of their set, where they played a mashup of the mostly-instrumental “Love Like a Sunset Part I” and “Bankrupt!” For this, the group also deserves high praise. Phoenix did not simply get on stage and play a list of songs; they are true performers and put on an incredible and interactive spectacle. During this small interlude, the screens and lights behind them showed mesmerizing videos, colors, and patterns, which, more so than throughout the rest of the show, draped another layer of artistry onto what they do.
It was so clear from this performance that aesthetics would never be put on a low rung on Phoenix’s list of priorities. From picking up the bright red phone during Telefono to the color of Christian Mazzalai’s guitar (matching the baby blue on the cover of Ti Amo), the band showed their dedication to minute details and the French style and charm that they never fail to deliver. This was clearest when the band came back for an emphatically demanded encore. After kneeling into the audience and serenading us with a heartfelt mashup of “Goodbye Soleil” and “Via Veneto,” Thomas Mars hopped into the crowd, walked around the floor, crowd-surfed, and even attempted (sadly, unsuccessfully) to climb onto the balcony. You could tell for sure the band knew they were coming back for an encore as they played their smash hit “1901” along with “Telefono” and “Fior di Latte,” the latter I was most hoping to hear when I stepped into the venue. You could also tell it was meant to be because, as he made his way through the crowd, I was given the heavenly opportunity to hug Thomas Mars, giving him my thank you for singing the lyrics I belted along to as I drove home from the dentist after getting my braces off.
I have no reservations in announcing that this was the best concert I’ve been to in my short twenty-one years of life. Bangers like “Entertainment” and “If I Ever Feel Better” shuttled me back to a time of first loves and first heartbreaks. A time I could reflect upon as I jumped 3 feet in the air to “Telefono” and let the bass lines of “Role Model” take over me, celebrating a record that undeniably marked my transition from awkward teen into slightly-less-awkward adult.