Lovers Lane
Rialto Square Theatre
Avondale Music Hall
ATT Internet 75

Phoenix live

| June 17, 2009

Park West, Chicago
Saturday, June 13, 2009


I admit to having hesitated seeing Phoenix in concert. Bringing their artful, yet precise studio pop to the performance stage seemed as wise as transporting a world-war-trending Risk board from the kitchen to the basement mid-match.

Frontman Thomas Mars presented the biggest worry, the boyish sheen on his voice always sounding slightly enhanced — not vocoded, but aided. Meanwhile, press photos depict four boys, while albums like 2006’s astounding It’s Never Been Like That (Astralwerks) and the new Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix appear to have at least three guitars going at once, which doesn’t leave many people for all the percussion and keyboarding.

Only half the questions were answered when six Frenchman, who ventured into an apprehensive “Lisztomania,” took the stage at 9:30. The rust wouldn’t envelop the entire song, but already flags were raised as to how faithfully their craft could be reproduced. A murk you’d never associate with their airy, crisp panache stuck to them like spilt cola on movie-theater linoleum. Attribute it to new material: As Phoenix seesawed between tunes from their last two albums, those from the former felt much more fluid. “Consolation Prizes” found new thrust in the John Bonham-like crashing from their touring drummer, while “Rally” raced between tempos with the slickness of the studio version. Mars, bedecked in a decidedly non-Latin Quarter blue polo, pogoed in place while his bandmates filed back-and-forth like setting an offsides trap.

Wolfgang eventually caught up via “Rome” and “1901,” though still didn’t offer the polish of early career cuts like “Run Run Run” and “Too Young.” In fact, the new album’s greatest contribution was its discord, with the ponderous “Love Like A Sunset” giving consternation to newer fans who are just beginning to understand the “art” part of artpop. The whole of the Park West seemed to pause while the band went on the occasional excursion, and I could sympathize.

Steve Forstneger

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Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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