Phoenix Return in Fine Form at Radio City Music Hall on Friday
September 12, 2022
Phoenix – Radio City Music Hall – September 9, 2022
We haven’t seen Phoenix for a while, and the decision to lead off their Radio City show on Friday with one of their best-known songs — “Lisztomania” — was like a shot right to the amygdala: an emotional catharsis to welcome back the French indie-synth-pop brigade in fine form. As it turned out, they’d sustain that surge of emotion throughout the whole of their 20-song set, which felt like one long, fizzy payoff, not to mention a gnarly-giddy dance party replete with gorgeously aggressive lights, backdrops and stage production. Every nook and cranny of Radio City got the touch, feeling laughably small to contain this big sound. Ah, Phoenix. So triumphantly fun.
The band — Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai, abetted on the road, as always, by Robin Courdet and Thomas Hedlund to form a crackling sextet — milked their gifts for pacing and showmanship, balancing the panoramic set list with old favorites and sly new tunes. If you had a wished-for Phoenix banger, you probably got it; snap-cracklers (“Lasso”) yielded to serenades (“Love Like a Sunset”) yielded to quirky curiosities (“Funky Squaredance”) yielded to stadium-sized fist-pumpers (“Rome”).
There’s much promise in the newer tracks, and we got four of them, including “Alpha Zulu,” a big slice of psychedelic dance-pop from the band’s forthcoming album of the same name, plus the jittery, synth-layered “Tonight,” and the aching, slowly unfolding “Winter Solstice,” the latter played publicly live for the first time. An encore portion included “Trying to Be Cool,” which mined a nifty visual trick with projection binoculars, before the whole show inevitably landed at “1901,” offering one more opportunity to dance and let it all out. We did.
No reviews of this Phoenix tour will escape mention of the staging and visuals, which in this ensemble’s hands are the proverbial extra band member. The lights were on point in every stanza, drawing out the music’s inherent psychedelia and lacing the place with mood. The backdrop became a heady set of colored boxes that shifted, folded, reframed and danced — we felt as much in a modern art installation as we were in a concert setting. For this band that loves messy artiness that never feels inaccessible, we’re guessing that was the point. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson
Photos courtesy of Ken Grand-Pierre | www.kenamiphoto.com