Reviews

Phoenix: 30 July 2010 - London

Sam Cleeve

After almost a decade spent toiling away in relative obscurity, Phoenix have now well and truly asserted themselves as one of France’s greatest musical exports, a group capable of executing a performance of unarguable quality at the drop of a hat.

Phoenix
City: London
Venue: The Roundhouse
Date: 2010-07-30

Tonight I went to a rock show. A real one. With guitars and strobe lights and an almost quasi-mosh pit and everything. There’s no denying the fact that this Grammy-winning four piece are a bona fide rock band – even if the precisions of the electronic elements of their recorded output might suggest otherwise. Tonight, Phoenix blasted through their set with the sort of effortless efficiency to be found only in the upper echelons of today’s most revered bands.

But first, a short set from one James Yuill. With the appearance of a bewildered IT consultant, his oversized specs suggest technician rather than musician - but this plays to his advantage. Spending the majority of the forty-minute set flanked on all sides by an impressive array of drum machines, mixing decks and laptops, Yuill proceeds to present his songwriting craft upon a foundation of his own brand of electronica – without doubt, The Postal Service acts as the most appropriate point of reference here. Guitar casually flung round his back, Yuill flickers from the electronic to the acoustic with a masterful ease. But it’s just not about the tripwire act - it’s Friday night, and the Roundhouse is full of people here to have fun. Yuill’s beats alone are enough to keep the room on his side.

During their headlining set, Phoenix continually strike as seasoned performers with an unceasing level of professionalism, whilst never loosing that romanticized sense of the French as aloof bohemians that the audience are so obviously drawn towards.

And that they are – some reports have suggested that many of the crowds at this year’s month long iTunes festival have been less than enthusiastic (to be expected of course, when tickets are given away free to any person willing to make the effort to push a few buttons on their favorite Apple product). But credit where credit’s due: iTunes wholly overshadows its competitors in every genre, and they’ve clearly made the effort to represent that here – with artists as diverse as The National, Tony Bennett, Mexican-born tenor Rolando Villazón, and of course, Foreigner.

But it’s safe to say Phoenix draw the best out of the crowd tonight. Moving my way through The Roundhouse (whose distinctive architecture and relatively recent refurbishment make it, for my money, the most aesthetically pleasing purpose built venue of its kind in London), there’s movement in every corner, evidence of the spirit and energy the band pour into the room – even if the gentleman laying down the moves at the back might do well to rethink his current repertoire.

With last year’s highly acclaimed Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix played in it’s entirety, it’s clear the set is going to be a crowd pleaser from the galloping motif that marks the start of opener “Lisztomania”. Later, Wolfgang centerpiece “Love Like A Sunset” is broken down to its very core components, (to an extent far outreaching that of its recorded equivalent) before being built up once more towards it’s sanguine close. Older favorites including “Long Distance Call” and “If I Ever Feel Better” also receive proper airings – and although to a more muted response, it’s a casual reminder that Phoenix didn’t just begin hatching songs of considerable quality last year.

Closing out the evening with “1901”, nonchalant singer Thomas Mars ventures to the front barrier to address his reverent crowd, burying his head into a blur of hair-rustling, back-patting hands.

After almost a decade spent toiling away in relative obscurity, Phoenix have now well and truly asserted themselves as one of France’s greatest musical exports, a group capable of executing a performance of unarguable quality at the drop of a hat, whilst loving every minute of it – something that tonight seems to radiate to the entire room. It’s Friday night, the spared ticket costs seem to have gone directly behind the bar, and Phoenix are nothing but runaway fun. And as long as everyone’s happy, that’s all they need to be.

SET LIST

Lisztomania

Consolation

Lasso

Long Distance Call

Fences

Girlfriend

Armistice

Love Like A Sunset (Parts I and II)

Rally

Countdown

Rome

Funky Squaredance (Part 1/2/3)

---

If I Ever Feel Better

1901

(As part of the iTunes Festival)

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image