On the eve of Independence day, Phoenix deftly blended nearly two decades of their eclectic discography into a captivating set.

7/3/18 – House of Blues

On a hot July night in Boston, French synth-pop band Phoenix dipped in and out of what felt like a fast-forwarded scene from Call Me By Your Name.

Of course, the Italian theme of Ti Amo already evoked comparisons to the movie set on a 17th century villa in Lombardy. But as the venue’s AC units struggled to keep the unbearable Boston heat from seeping in, the mugginess added to the Italian summer vibe. For one, there was the pastel palette of the outfits of those in the crowd. And the band’s “Supermercato”—a vending machine packed with autographed CDs, cassettes, pens, and deflated balloons which boggled and excited fans—was branded with Italian text, its red and white and half-cursive typography bringing to mind race cars and F1’s Grand Prix.

When we weren’t in Italy, we were on the dance floor, beneath flashing strobe lights as frontman Thomas Mars repeated “Rome Rome Rome Rome,” disco ball glittering with the bopping beat of “If I Ever Feel Better.”

Or, we were plunged into an 80s era Midway video game: tiles and lines moved across the backdrop like a computer’s loading screen on “Ti Amo,” and the distorted Galaga-like synths of the instrumental section of “Bankrupt!” launched us into space.

The crowd was energetic throughout—perhaps from day-early July 4th pre-games—but as much as their excited dancing added to the night (and literal support of Mars as he crowd surfed), the rowdiness of some interrupted intimate moments. Audience chatter added unwanted vocals to the instrumental “Love Like A Sunset Part I,” and loud yowls scorched the plucking of the guitar strings that end “Love Like a Sunset Part II.” A guy in the crowd took it upon himself to continuously pierce Phoenix’s songs with a loud whistling that could only be described as drunken jeering. An attempt to spiff up the live rendition of “Telofono” (a bright red rotary dial phone with a built-in mic to recreate the conversations that pepper the recorded version) was met with heckling: “Put it on silent!” yelled an audience member with a grin.

While some artists drop older material altogether from their sets to ensure a cohesive sound, or split their performance into distinct sections punctuated by costume changes, or book-end their shows with their popular hits, Phoenix opted to craft a concert that felt more like an artful DJ set.

With a blend of styles and masterful contrasts in vibe, dynamics, and visuals that allowed the band to perform their eclectic discography, Phoenix had it all: curated video clips (in line with the aesthetic of the “Ti Amo” music video) of dinosaurs and windsurfers; dramatic headbanging and violent whips of the microphone; timed silences that temporarily paused the performance before launching back into dance-inducing beats; a setlist that was so varied it included “Funky Squaredance Part 3,” which involves a solo from Mars—one that could’ve easily been mistaken as a soliloquy spilled from one of the band’s fellow helmet-wearing fellow Frenchmen, Daft Punk.

As Mars closed out “1901” he took off his jacket, hanging it on the microphone stand as if it were a coat rack before walking off stage. But, the band continued to play. The encore wasn’t over yet: moments later Mars was in the middle of the room, hoisted up into the air by the crowd. His surprise appearance tracked only by the neon wire of the microphone that hung out of his back pocket.

The band slowly sped up the beat, a crescendo that built anticipation before the beat dropped. Suddenly, we were back in the club. Mars made his way back up towards the front as the crowd raved alongside him. With the help of a security guard, he slipped out of the sea of outstretched phones and clambered back onstage to join his bandmates as an explosive reprise of “Ti Amo” became the third and final adieu.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.