"Thank you and good night," Phoenix singer Thomas Mars said onstage Friday at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg.
More like good afternoon actually. When the Parisian pop-rock outfit were playing this invite-only warm up gig for their Saturday Night Live appearance, most poeple were still at the office, or out enjoying the first bright, sunny spring day in New York City. But those who secured a wristband (and managed to slip inside after a long wait outside in line), were rewarded with a run-through of the band's new album, Bankrupt!, plus favorites from their 2009 Grammy-winner Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
And this all in a 550-capacity club, intimate quarters for a band headlining next weekend's Coachella (...and later this summer Lollapalooza). The last time most people in the room saw Phoenix live was at Madison Square Garden.
The band--four core members, plus a touring drummer and keyboardist--kicked off the 75-minute set with their new single, "Entertainment," then returned to the well for back-to-back Amadeus tracks ("Lasso," "Lisztomania") and an oldie ("Long Distance Call") that kept the booze-swilling, phone-checking crowd's attention front and center for what was next: a run through the lion's share of Bankrupt!.
And it sounded great. Amadeus was like a brighter, more upbeat, more ... French ... take on the snappy guitar pop of, say, the Strokes' Is This It. But with Bankrupt!, the boys are playing/tampering/experimenting with that formula. They're coloring outside the lines--and it's quite colorful.
They played eight of the album's 10 tracks with stage-bounding gusto, and, in general, the keyboard riffs and synths flourish and linger, the guitars float on. It's more ambient and impressionistic. It's Amadeus interpreted by Renoir. Especially songs like "Drakkar Noir" and "Chloroform," two gems with psychedelic, colorwheel synth melodies and more experimental structures and rhythms. But this ain't Animal Collective--still, Bankrupt! is full of pop hooks demanding a hip twist and head bob.
"I wanna hear you loud and clear, please!" Mars shouted mid-set, a lone spotlight on him in the pitch-black room (seriously, you couldn't see your feet). The response was surprisingly deafening, especially for a bunch of jaded industry suits.
Yes, Phoenix, and their new album, bring out the hardcore fan in everybody. What's not to love?
Long Distance Call
S.O.S. In Bel Air
The Real Thing
Trying to be Cool