Phoenix @ Belvior Amphitheatre, Perth (05/03/10)

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Phoenix aren’t the kind of band that mess around; from the moment they walked out on stage and played the tell-tale two tone intro of smash-hit Lisztomania, they had the crowd bending to their every whim, and screaming for more.

Support from Miami Horror wasn’t horrible at all, it was a nice fit, and while not all of their songs are particularly memorable or inspiring for us all, the excited crowd showed their high spirits and appreciation by dancing their little high-waist-denim-shorted arses off. Naturally the best received moments were Don’t be on With Her and a cheeky cover of the charmingly annoying Datarock tune Fa Fa Fa. Those of us who aren’t really fans may even admit getting caught up in the fun, singing along and actually having a good time. It was a great way to get all giddy and excited for the main event.

Before the excitement of Lisztomania had the chance to fade, they launched into a quick succession of some of their best electro-pop tunes, including Long Distance Call and Lasso. Then Vocalist Thomas Mars couldn’t stand being apart from the crowd for another moment, as he stepped off the stage and hung over the barrier into the crowd and he serenaded them with Run Run Run.

All night there were requests by the band to put up the house lights, and who could blame them? Anyone who’s been to Belviour Amphitheatre can attest to how magical it looks, under the stars, packed to capacity with adoring fans, with the trees swaying softly in the breeze. Of course there’s always one complete knob who insists on climbing the tallest tree, and we all have to wait while he is coaxed down, considering that the longer they stay up there, the more dangerous it will be for them when they have to face the people below. The band took this in their stride though, and luckily it came at a point in their set where they took a step away from the radio-friendly pop tunes and moved into the introspective journey of Love Like a Sunset. This track was dedicated to their sound Engineer, Matt West, who is from Perth himself; and everyone seemed pretty proud of that.

Phoenix aren’t a dialogue-heavy act, they say what they need to say through their music and stage antics, but every now and then Mars obviously thought we needed some encouragement, or maybe he just wanted to see how far he could push the over-excited crowd. He coaxed us into doing this his way by saying “Back home in France, we clap like this (Clap. Clap-clap)” Anyone who’s misspent some time in a Christian youth group will know exactly what that means. To give credit to the crowd, for the rest of the set, they made a noticeable effort to do the double-clap.

After successfully whipping the crowd into a frenzy with a few more danceable numbers, including Consolation Prizes The band left the stage. Now to musical elitists these days, there is nothing more passé than an encore, (but in defence of all bands, maybe they just want to take a break…), and crowds have become so expectant of them these days that they won’t even cheer and encourage to band to return. But at Phoenix, there was no one shy of demanding more; the crowd clapped and cheered and chanted from the moment the stage was empty till we could see someone scurrying about in the wings.

The whole band did not return however, just Mars and Guitarist Christian Mazzalai, armed with an acoustic guitar. Everyone settled expectantly and some Air fans dotted about the crowd quietly wished that they might get to hear a rendition of Playground Love. Mazzalai began a slow strumming of what we shortly realised was a gorgeous version of Everything is Everything. It was beautiful and moving and demonstrated a depth to the music far beyond simple “pop”. When the song was done, a short whispered discussion took place between musicians, then suddenly, as if whispered wishes were heard, they gave us a spine tingling acoustic version of Playground Love; some of us may have had a couple of tears, and everyone else certainly at least had goose-bumps.

The rest of the band returned to the stage and together they belted out If I Ever Feel Better. Mars took this opportunity to climb the lighting scaffolding, microphone clutched in his jaws. He enjoined the crowd once again with “I want you to scream so loud they hear you in Paris!” Well, we certainly tried our hardest anyway.

Of course they saved their current beloved hit, 1901, for last, oh, and second last. When the song ended it just didn’t seem like enough for them, and they extended it double length. In a glorious display of self-indulgence, Mars climbed the tall side barrier and hung over whilst the crowd grabbed at his hair and face and clothes, like some kind of crazed Elvis fans. It was amazing to watch, and the band seemed to be having such a good time. At times they even looked a little bewildered that the first time they came to Perth they would get such a phenomenal reaction, which hopefully ensures it won’t be long ‘til we see them again.

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