Phoenix at Brixton Academy for NME Awards 2014
French rock has never been successful worldwide. Whereas the Gallic accent has proved to be fashionable in popular culture – with French sophistication even trend-setting in the electronic scene – it has never seemed to have the same effect alongside electric guitars, basslines and drumbeats.
Phoenix formed in Paris in the mid-90s and their 2000 debut United was actually closer to the dance world than rock; their hit If I Ever Feel Better and movie soundtrack Too Young made them known on a global scale as an interesting indie act.
Everything changes two albums and nearly ten years later, when they release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, winner of a Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album. The prize wasn’t the only conquest: the record went on most of the papers’ end-of-year top-ten rankings and it became a slow-burning commercial success even in the US. After a bit of a hiatus, Phoenix returned last year with Bankrupt! and are now back in London for the second leg of their worldwide tour.
Some bands prefer to keep their hits for last, while others use them to kick-start the night – tonight Phoenix embrace the latter philosophy and begin the show with Bankrupt! lead single Entertainment. Live they are more concrete than what you’d think from their records, their fast-paced beats and feel-good melodies bringing an irresistible party mood to the Brixton Academy. Frontman Thomas Mars – who gained further notoriety by marrying Sofia Coppola back in 2011 – is in complete control on the stage; during fan favourite Lasso he stands on the first-row barriers, singing right in front of his crowd.
Their biggest hit to date, Lisztomania, comes next, pleasing the audience but leaving those who do not know the band very well wonder whether it’s going to get boring all of a sudden. Well, that’s not going to happen. Phoenix‘s songs are not only sophisticated but also very accessible and they don’t need many listenings to be appreciated.
Too Young and Sunskrupt! (a mash-up of Love Like Sunset and Bankrupt!) are the highlights of the middle of the set, which is brilliantly closed by 1901.
There’s also room for surprises during the encore, when half of electro duo Air – Nicolas Godin – joins the band to perform Playground Love, composed by Air for Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. What an intricate web. It’s a very emotional moment, perfectly balanced by the danciness of If I Ever Feel Better, which they play right after.
Rome, a very respectable song on record, becomes the perfect ending for this night of great music from a band who have proved that French music can impress a London audience even when featuring electric guitars.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
For further information about Phoenix and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Entertainment here: