Phoenix: Live Last Night


Live Last Night

Long disdained by Anglophones, French rock has a reputation for being kind of lame. Rather than fight that perception, such contemporary French outfits as Phoenix embrace it. The Paris band, which performed last night at the Rock & Roll Hotel, plays pop-rock that's unapologetically synthetic and thoroughly sanitized.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Phoenix's 75-minute show could have been mistaken for an intense experience, since the sold-out club was awash with humidity and packed with ardent fans. At times, the sextet's two guitarists produced raucous timbres and expansive musical gestures. (In fact, the two-part "Love Like a Sunset'' was nothing but a string of fanfares.)

But the band's songs were lightweight and obsessively tidy, with their various pop genres -- mostly disco, new wave and arena-rock -- segregated as carefully as beans and potatoes on a picky eater's plate. Nothing ever bled into anything else, and spontaneity was carefully quarantined.

That doesn't mean Phoenix's material failed to work. On the contrary, such solidly constructed numbers as "Liztomania'' and "Fences'' were quite jaunty, in the tradition of such musical clean freaks as the Cars, Haircut 100 and France's own Air. Thomas Mars's boyish vocals were lucid and carefully framed by arrangements that periodically dropped most of the instruments, leaving only a simple keyboard riff or basic kick-drum beat.

But if these stark moments were designed to showcase genuine emotion, that didn't happen. Luckily for Phoenix, their fans danced and shouted into the breach, injecting passion into a show that otherwise was merely professional.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 22, 2009; 3:41 PM ET Live Last Night
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