French indie rock veterans Phoenix are poised to make a comeback of epic proportions this year. Last time we got a full length release from the band, it redefined the band’s following for good. 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is still to this day one of the most well-loved indie pop records in recent time, and tracks like “Lisztomania” and “1901” have evolved into timeless classics that even received their fare share of mainstream attention. Now, Phoenix has us once again on the cusp of, presumably, another classic. New record Bankrupt! is set to hit American shelves on April 23. Its lead single “Entertainment” has already been on constant repeat nationwide. But just in case anyone forgot about them in their time away, Pheonix is leading the album with a tour to prove that in addition to creating masterpieces in the studio, they give their audience a one of a kind experience every night. Last Friday, Phoenix made their stop in Seattle and wowed the Paramount Theatre with a career spanning set of wonders. Aided by fantastic Captured Tracks act Mac DeMarco, it was a truly unforgettable evening.
Despite not having very many prior fans in the room, Mac DeMarco didn’t let a moment of his opening set go to waste. The Montreal singer/songwriter spins gorgeous indie rock tunes seasoned with shoegaze tendencies here and there. His October 2012 LP, 2, received almost universal acclaim for its beautiful balance and honest portrayal of the artist. DeMarco was as comfortable onstage as we can imagine he is in his bedroom. He and his band played a super tight set with equal parts finesse and fancy free. DeMarco is a very animated frontman, singing his stories with all of the inflection and emphasis of a fish tale at the bar, while strumming away at his beat up guitar and giving his band the space and opportunity to show off their chops too.
Never once did the band take themselves too seriously. When DeMarco wasn’t singing, he was sticking his tongue out at the crowd, ripping it on guitar. When he had to take a break to tune, the band broke into an impromptu jazz session with Mac’s bassist creeping the crowd out with stereotypical French giggles. Before launching into two great numbers from 2, DeMarco made the serious claim that they were Danzig covers. Another, he claimed was inspired by the fish tossing at the market. Never one to bore his audience, he and the band gave an opening performance worth its own admission. DeMarco’s tunes aren’t very long, and in the 50 minutes he was given, he burned through the majority of 2 and a couple tracks from his rough and tumble debut Rock & Roll Night Club. While perhaps a bit too rough around the edges for some Phoenix fans, Mac DeMarco stole the rest of our hearts and bid farewell with a big, toothy smile.
The Paramount erupted as Phoenix returned to a Seattle stage for the first time in years. The bright pentatonic synth of “Entertainment” bit through the air as more screams erupted through the air and the band exploded into their new single. Phoenix has a gift for writing live anthems. They would, of course, make this all the more evident as they dug back through Wolfgang Amadeus and It’s Never Been Like That later in the show, but the massive size of “Entertainment” live was really something to marvel at. As the song ended and the band dove into “Lisztomania”, Thomas Mars jumped off stage and balanced himself on the photo pit railing to sing the entire song with the fans. Fighting through the sea of photographers, he managed to sing each different verse with a different part of the front row. It was pure, youthful, chaotic bliss.
Phoenix vocalized that they were playing the majority of Bankrupt! live during their set this evening. These tunes were pretty easy to catch most of the time – as we heard on “Entertainment”, the new tunes have a sharpness and brightness that shimmers even a bit more than the pure pop magic of Wolfgang Amadeus. The drums are brighter and programmed, and all in all, Bankrupt! very quickly became one of our most anticipated records of the year. The sheer size of these new tracks was massive. Phoenix hasn’t lost an ounce of energy in their time away. They don’t seem to be searching for the next place to go the way some bands their age are starting to do. Rather, with Bankrupt!, they picked the perfect place to venture to, and the audience agreed. Hearing many of these songs for the first time, the crowd could care less that they couldn’t sing along. Phoenix had far too much energy for anyone to notice and the audience dance the evening way regardless.
But no old school fans were lost in the shuffle during Phoenix’s huge set. They played almost every track off of Wolfgang Amadeus, including a particularly awesome new rendition of “Love Is Like A Sunset” featuring the synth breakdown from the initial Bankrupt! teaser website that almost gave some of us seizures. Plenty of older Phoenix material was mixed into the set too, but honestly, no one was keeping track – new material just sounded too damn good. But for the ultimate fan service, for their encore, Thomas and guitarist Christian Mazzalai emerged for a gorgeous, stripped down rendition of “Countdown” that about had us in tears. Altogether, Phoenix have made it clear that they are back and that they have zero catching up to do.