Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"London, comment ça va?" asked Phoenix vocalist Thomas Mars earlier tonight at the Roundhouse.

"Je va bien!" I replied rather quietly but happily.

And, indeed, I was. Truly amazing given how incredibly exhausted I was after a long stretch of late nights at the office, and what seemed like an eternity on my feet. Never, ever wear MBTs to a gig if you're going to be standing up the whole time. It works your abs but good, but the moment you lose concentration, you just might fall over.

Anyway, I don't know very many Phoenix songs. I can only name two - Lizstomania (which they opened with) and 1901 (which they played as an encore) - but I'd heard so much about them that I purchased a ticket some time back so that I could check them out for myself. And they are a very good band live. Whoever does their lights should be commended because I'm pretty certain it played a large part in my enjoyment of the show, given I couldn't see very much at all.

They are certainly very French. They sing English songs and Thomas doesn't really have much of a French accent even though he comes from Paris, but there's a certain Gallic quality to their music which you can trace back to Daft Punk and Justice. In fact, their melodies sound very much like what you think Daft Punk would sound like if they gave up the turntables and picked up musical instruments and went all rock.

There was one moment in the night when they played Rome, a tune I thought which strongly resembled Daft Punk's style. And then the lights came on behind them such that all you could see were the black silhouettes of the band members playing and dancing in front of the multi-coloured lights. And the house lights came on, illuminating the audience, all jumping, dancing and swaying. And I just felt the guitars and lights wash over me and touch my soul, making me forget about the stress, sadness and loneliness that have been dogging me over the past few weeks. It felt amazing.

One surprisingly tender moment during the concert occurred when Phoenix returned for their encore and said that they would like to sing in French, and do a Johnny Hallyday tune - La Fille Aux Cheveux Clairs (The Girl with the Shiny Hair). What followed next wasn't the elevator music standard I expected, but a rather tender, sweet, gentle folksy tune. Really nice.

Phoenix ended off with 1901, my favourite of the tunes I know, and probably the best one of their entire catalogue to finish a show with. It's dance-y and energetic, it's catchy and, heck, most of us know the words. And it was also an extended version too. Just when everyone had thought the song had ended, so much so that one third of the audience just turned around and exited the hall, the guitarists remained on the stage and continuing playing a very simple tune, when, all of a sudden, Thomas appeared somewhere near the back of the room, thanking us for coming to see him (about the eighteenth time he said, "thank you") and continued singing 1901 before bounding back to the stage and concluding the song there.

C'était un bon spectacle, certainement.

After all the long days I've had, this was certainly what the doctor ordered... and much, much more.

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