The Line Of Best Fit Radio

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Phoenix - Live Review

Live: Phoenix
Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY: 08 Aug 2006
Live Review by Jessica Suarez

Cancer can't sponsor a show, but cigarette companies can-- even though they don't actually allow smoking indoors in New York City. Camel reps gave away so many tickets for the last stop on the Phoenix/French Kicks tour that the line outside the Bowery Ballroom wound around the block. Bouncers sent half the line home, and those that made it in looked more like freeloaders than fans.

After a longish set by openers the French Kicks, stage guys unfurled a large banner with four crests on it, which read "Nec Pluribus Impar", or "No unequal match for many". Less literally, it translates to "Second to none," the name of the last song on Phoenix's latest, It's Never Been Like That. This album is more rock than slick French pop, and fittingly their shows have become louder and less polished. On "Run Run Run", from 2004's Alphabetical, the band showed off its best live attribute: A gift for manipulating its songs' dynamics by stretching out their breaks and silences, creating maximum drama. But even live, smoothness can be a hindrance-- the band was so tight that I was tempted to look for an iPod plugged into the boards.

The audience loved new single "Long Distance Call" but showed more enthusiasm for the band's back catalog. After a few polite merci beaucoups Phoenix returned to perform "Too Young", a song best know for its use in the party scene in Lost in Translation. Singer Thomas Mars-- a striking if somewhat distant front man-- is the father of Sofia Coppola's baby, and the LiT director watched the show from the balcony. The band closed by reprising the show-opening "Napoleon Says", speeding up the song to double time, and then ran through bits and pieces of some of the other tracks they performed that night, for a bizarre live mash-up/encore/look back at the evening's selections, which gave the show a pleasant arc. Too bad so many people missed this: By that point, the freeloaders had streamed out of the Bowery. Maybe they needed a cigarette.

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