TEXT/PHOTOS BY JAKE KAUFFMAN
It’s been over two years since Phoenix’s last tour but based on their live performance at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago on September 28th one would think they had never stopped. With the release of their first album since their Grammy Award-winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the band has reestablished itself as one of the most energetic live bands currently on tour.
The dreamy Parisian electro-pop group brought enough energy to nearly turn the sellout crowd into a frenzy. The band, fittingly, opened with their appropriately titled single “Entertainment,” off their latest album Bankrupt!, setting the stage for what would turn out to be a rapturous show from start to finish. They immediately followed up “Entertainment” with a heavy dose of the songs that made them famous including, “Lasso” and “Lisztomania.” Longtime fans were treated to some of the band’s older material, most notably “Long Distance Call” and “Rally,” both off 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That. Lead singer Thomas Mars kept it lively by singing while immersed in the audience and crowd surfing his way into their hearts.
The band then provided a heavy dose of new material while the compelling light show complemented the band’s fist-pumping synth riffs. With the fans amped up, the band turned to the ambient crowd pleaser “Sunskrupt!”, a song that combines “Bankrupt!” and “Love Like A Sunset.” They then injected vintage offerings such as the disco smooth folk tune “Run Run Run” and “Consolation Prizes.” Dialing it back up, the band paid homage to the album that made them famous (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) by performing “Armistice” and No. 1 chart hit “1901” that turned the Aragon into a full-fledged dance party.
With brothers Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai providing the tight guitar harmonies on stage for dual song arrangement “If I Ever Feel Better/Funky Squaredance,” Mars escaped to serenade the crowd from the balcony. It’s a rare sight when such a polarizing frontman such as Mars is able to interact with those in the back; it conveys the reality that this is a band built for a live setting.
With the band providing the instrumentation from the stage Mars continued to work his way through the balcony, serenading star struck fans along the way. As bands in today’s day and age continue to rely heavily upon production and the Internet for exposure, Phoenix lets their playing do the talking.
Mars returned to the stage to perform “Rome” before capping an already memorable evening with an encore of “Entertainment.” With the venue overflowing with energy, Phoenix bid au revoir to the crowd with applause of their own for lending to the excitement that makes witnessing a live performance by the band as sweet as the peach on the cover of Bankrupt!