Live Review

Phoenix, Brixton Academy, London

Over the course of 90 minutes, barely a second goes flat.

Rule #1: Red trousers are only OK if you’re a member of Phoenix. The Versailles band’s common fashion routine - involving looking like a bunch of librarians off duty - somehow doesn’t strike as a faux pas. Grey hairs and garish stubble can’t fault their flow. French gentlemen on a mission, Brixton bows down to the band’s biggest London show so far, even excusing the dubious attire in the name of good songs.

This might sound like a pathetic understatement, but Phoenix have a lot of songs. The buck doesn’t stop at material on ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’, nor does it go bankrupt at, err, ‘Bankrupt!’ In fact this knack for glitzy, Hollywood Hills pop has a habit of defining the past decade. When the band waltz through an encore, sporting oldie ‘If I Ever Feel Better’, it quickly becomes clear this giant occasion has been long, long due.

They treat it in suitable style, pulling out all the thrills-a-minute stops, silhouettes throwing shapes in front of giant beckoning stills of their beautiful home city. ‘Chloroform’ even gets an airing in front of a glowing backdrop showing off the Alps. Not to be overawed by London’s cheerful welcome, Thomas Mars leads his band through a set that says far more than ‘Merci’. Often a binge Phoenix listening session - and these things do happen, anybody here can attest to it - result in grim French pop comas. One song is indistinguishable from another. Live, the challenge is to pick out gems in a field already full of the stuff. These glamorous librarians succeed. ‘Armistice’ is the hit single that never was, ‘Love Like a Sunset’ interchanges between bass wobbles and proggy synth work, ‘SOS In Bel Air’ demands guestlist and gets it. Over the course of 90 minutes, barely a second goes flat.

Mars alternates from stubbornly still to spending half of his time basking in the arms of the crowd. ‘1901’ gets the biggest reception, but by this point anything showcased before sounds just as capable of being a monster chart-botherer. The best part is, this feels like a wave of momentum that’ll keep on going. Not even red trousers can stop Phoenix in their pure pursuit of stardom.

Tags: Phoenix, Features

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