Phoenix – Barclays Center – October 2, 2013
As the lights went dark and the video screens lit up with images of Thomas Mars and the rest of Phoenix making their way to the stage from the depths of Barclays Center, it was pretty clear how well they’ve adjusted to life as an arena band. Drenched in smoke lit blood red, Phoenix opened with the appropriate “Entertainment,” immediately followed by “Lasso” and “Lisztomania,” two of their biggest songs. If you’ve only ever heard Phoenix through your laptop speakers or headphones, you wouldn’t believe how big their six-member live show sounds.
It all begins with drummer Thomas Hedlund, whose every drum and cymbal hit came with authority, keeping the band in time as they sped through songs from their upbeat catalog (he was complemented by a keyboard/aux percussionist, which made plenty of those big beats sound even bigger). Brothers Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai manned guitar duties, and even sneaked in some synth of their own in between their quick melodies. Mars has grown from a (perhaps) timid lead singer to one with plenty of stage presence.
The bigger venues suit Phoenix’s sound and personality extremely well, and some of their loudest songs, like “Girlfriend” with its sweeping synths, grew louder with all that space to fill. Even the laid-back throwback “Run Run Run” was supplied with an epic breakdown of an ending. The band began to close the set with “Armistice” as Mars leaned out over the crowd, and he stayed right there with them for “1901,” as well as a stripped-down, spotlit version of “Coundtown.” They finished with Mars atop a piano set up behind the sound booth—and fans trying to capture the moment promptly swarmed him. As the encore wrapped with “Rome,” Mars whispered something to Hedlund and then booked it into the crowd, carrying his wired microphone with him and personally thanking fans while the band vamped a few minutes of “Entertainment” until he crowd surfed his way back up front and invited more than 100 people to finish it all off onstage. —Sean O’Kane