June 16, 2009
French pop sensations, Phoenix, have been one of the most talked / raved about bands of 2009, and for good reason. Their magnifencent fourth album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix has already sparked two huge singles and is a strong AOTY contender. I’ve heard some great things about the band’s live show, so I wasn’t about to miss the chance to see them in Chicago this past weekend, the first date of a two-week trek through North America (not counting their performance at Bonnaroo the day before). Needless to say, the band put on a mind-blowing performance, in front of an rapturous crowd.
This was my first time at Park West and I was very impressed with the theater. It’s a very stylish, elegant venue (which made it perfect for the band) and the wide-scale openess of the place allowed for an abundance of great viewing angles. I was less dazzled by the opening band, Amazing Baby. I admit, I didn’t give them my full attention but they failed to leave an impression on me. They definitely needed some stronger hooks to pull me in, hooks which headliners Phoenix generously provided throughout their phenomenal 90-minute set.
The excitement level of the audience went through the roof as Phoenix took the stage to “Lisztomania”, a song which continues to further it’s status as the ubiquitous indie rock summer jam. The crowd took the appropriate reaction by providing the “mania” to the song’s title. I’d be hard-pressed to find a more escatic crowd then the one that graced Park West that night, singing along to every word. The band had no problem matching the crowd’s energy. They hit high after high for the next half hour of the set, with a perfect succession of songs from It’s Never Been Like That, “Long Distance Call”, “Consolation Prizes” and “Napoleon Says”. They combination of those songs one after another, absolutely tore the place down. “Napoleon” was especially brilliant with singer Thomas Mars leading the crowd in the rallying cry “Right hand in a trench coat” and the drummer putting his entire body into every pound of the snare.
The band paced themselves through the mid-half of the set, playing some Wolfgang with “Lasso” and both movements of “Love Like A Sunset” (which provided a nice instrumental break from the upbeat sing-a-longs) as well as some early tracks from United and Alphabetical. The set ended with their their Lost in Translation soundtrack-gracing single “Too Young” and the two more exceptional new tracks “Girlfriend” and “Rome”. The band saved the best for the encore though with “1901”, a song which absolutely exploded out of the speakers and brought an extended outro which had Thomas wandering through the crowd and signing the last refrain on a table in the middle of the theatre. The band succeeded in putting on a thrilling, breathtaking concert. The night was a complete triumph and ranks among the best shows I’ve witnessed.
View the more of my pictures + setlist after the jump (the entire set is here)…
View the entire set of pictures at the musicforants.com flickr page.