A line stretched all the way down Landsowne Street as people lined up in the 93-degree heat to see Phoenix play a sold out show at the House of Blues on July 3rd. The French six-piece is known best for their 2009 breakout album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, featuring singles “1901” and “Lisztomania” and their 2013 hit “Entertainment” off of Bankrupt! Last summer, the band released Ti Amo, and received critical acclaim. The band is currently touring in support of the album, including residencies in Brooklyn and LA.
The crowd anxiously awaited Phoenix’s set as they sat through Leather Can’s opening set without much dancing or clapping along. It was clear they were here for Phoenix. While waiting, many stopped off at the vending machine that held not sodas but exclusive merch like jewelry. The machine, marked “mercato” (Italian for market), echoed the Italian inspiration behind Ti Amo.
When the lights finally went dark, the crowd erupted as the opening notes of “J-Boy” played and the band took the stage. The lead single off of Ti Amo whisked listeners into the dreamy dystopia set forth by the rippling synths and lead singer Thomas Mars’ vocals, alternating between singing and half-rapping.
Phoenix reminded everyone that they were still a powerhouse of the alternative rock scene, even 18 years after their debut album. As fans danced along to the swinging melody of “Lisztomania,” the instrumental mashup of “Love Like a Sunset” and “Bankrupt!” (dubbed “Sunskrupt”), and the guitar solo “Funky Squaredance” that resembled hard rock significantly more than synth pop, Phoenix proved their versatility in sound. Yet, all of the different styles from which Phoenix has drawn inspiration felt cohesive and polished under the euphoric energy of their live show.
Their set was accompanied by their vibrant set design. The screen behind them flashed with the band’s name in rainbow carnival-style lights, a video of a waterfall that transported fans from the cramped venue to wide-open nature, and a graphic of brightly colored drips reminiscent of melting gelato on a hot day.
Phoenix’s set managed to build through the entirety of the show, ending with a dynamic encore. Mars had the whole crowd waving their arms back and forth to “Fior di Latte,” a song simultaneously about desire and gelato before launching into the band’s hit single “1901.” The whole crowd belted the lyrics to what seemed like a blissful end to their set. Phoenix, however, continued playing, beginning a reprise of “Ti Amo.” Mars joined the crowd in the pit with a glowing red microphone trailing behind him. He took half a lap around the venue, giving high-fives to fans, before climbing on top of fans and grabbing a beer from someone in the crowd. After crowd surfing back up to the stage, Mars joined his bandmates on stage to give a triumphant wave goodbye to the crowd of very satisfied fans.