April 20: Phoenix

I'll admit that following the Them Crooked Vultures show on Monday night, I had a bit of bad taste in my mouth so to speak, but more accurately a bad ringing in my ear. It just wasn't the kind of show that results in an uplifting, awesome feeling of general euphoria. Luckily, Tuesday night meant that the Ogden played host to French wonderband Phoenix, a show that I was not only insanely excited for, but one where I would enter as a sort of savant of the music catalog, rather than the novice costume I donned on Monday night. Already, you can see that this show was predisposed for greater success than the last one, but Phoenix also succeeded in playing a staggeringly exceptional show to a packed Ogden. And it was a show that felt both rock star big, and coffee shop intimate. The intimacy was the combined result of stage presence (a notably kind and thoroughly thankful Thomas Mars consistently praising and reaching out to the audience) and sound mixing that was so clean and crystal clear, you'd have hardly believed the show was live, in a small theater at all. The vocals were strong and clear, the guitars grinding, but never lost in the wake of drum and bass. And the keyboards (of which there were 4 at use on different occasions) filled in the sound with an album-like perfection. This was, in recent memory, my favorite live show (ever!).

There was no opening band, a surprise to be sure, given their tendency to exist in almost every show. Instead, a DJ opened with fun mixes of popular songs that were 90 percent successful, and made for a good chatting and drinking environment for the show's first hour. Phoenix took the stage at about 9pm, opened with "Lisztomania" and simply blew the crowd away from there on out. They snagged all the hits, "Fences," "Too Young" and on and on. And there was no wastefulness. These songs were self-contained masterpieces of pop. After each handful of tracks, Mars would thank Denver profusely and they'd crank back into it. The end of the show, following so many tightly played, passionately performed songs, came in a three-part encore set. They closed, of course, with "1901." (This song also prompted a funny show moment: A girl near me in the crowd, during the last lines of the encore opener shouted loudly, "1901!" I love all-ages shows for this reason. I've been to enough concerts to know that the band will play their big song, unless they've toured with it once before and they're tired of it. Good times.) While the final choruses of "1901" turned into fading guitar riffs, Mars found his way out into the middle of the crowd, climbed up on a rail separating the floor levels, and thanked everyone again. Finally, he invited the fans at the floor directly beneath the stage to climb up and finish the song with them. As the band played the grinding riff made famous by Cadillac commercials, and people climbed awkwardly onto the stage, and Mars belted "Fold it!" I felt suddenly and completely tied in with a band that I respect, who didn't just come there to show off (the way I felt Them Crooked Vultures may have), but to play to their fans, to the crowd. Phoenix chose to be entertainers, rather than people entertained by entertaining. It was refreshing, it was fun, and it was exhilarating. And when the show ended at 10:30, it wasn't a welcome ending so much as a satisfying one. Phoenix guaranteed on Tuesday night that I will seek them out again. And they forged a place in the high-ranks of my concert memory. Stellar, incredible, awesome show. That's it.

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