Phoenix rises to the challenge at Ricoh

Phoenix Singer Thomas Mars being held aloft by the crowd. Photo: Alex Laljak, Creative Commons

Phoenix rises to the challenge at Ricoh

French band works to win over arena crowd, with success. 




Nick Krewen 
The Toronto Star
Published on Sat Oct 23 2010

Appearing before an estimated 5500 faithful at the Ricoh Coliseum on Friday night, Phoenix certain didn’t waste any time when it came to hauling out the heavy artillery.

Most bands usually wait until the conclusion of their set to trot out their breakout hit, but the Parisian ensemble launched the party with the energetic “Lizstomania” – singer Thomas Mars’ vocal almost blanketed by the pounding beat and incessant throb of synthesizer—and frankly, never looked back.

With momentum on his side, Mars established his willingness to get in tight with the crowd, jumping into the first few rows to serenade them with “Lasso” as strobe lights and smoke attempted to transform the Ricoh into a giant dance club, fueled largely by the pulsating tempos that comprise the Parisian band’s career-making, Grammy-winning album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

Phoenix almost succeeded: the one-two rhythmic whammy of live drumming sidemen Thomas Hedlund and percussionist Jonathan Chavez pounded their instruments with such intensity that they were a spectacle onto themselves, and band guitarists Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz occasionally leapt about the stage to express their creative enthusiasm.

If there was a reason that the dance virus never hit more than a few pockets of people at a time, it was simply because they were overwhelmed: there were clearly two camps of fans present – those who shook their groove thang and those who appreciated great musicianship.

The band demonstrated remarkable discipline when it came to accelerating and slowing tempos, with “Run Run Run” at one point trickling to a crawl and actually offering some tasteful dynamics in softness of volume, before the group dashed off again for an explosive finish.

Flourishes of New-Wave and New Order-inspired off-beats were complemented by slight jazz phrases or revolving key shifts that were shoe-horned into the confinement of a dazzling rock passage and then, just as quickly, spat out again. It was a feat that seems more magnified on the live stage than what is heard on the album, and there were several moments that embodied some impressive technical embellishments.

At about the half-hour mark, the band even pulled an interesting visual during the instrumental “Love Like A Sunset” by dropping a curtain, and letting the musicians visually entertain the crowd by shadow.

It was simple, yet novel.

Almost by default, singer Mars was the weakest link, his frothy tenor dominated by the music. But what he lacked in power, he attempted to compensate through outreach.

Following a tender acoustic rendition of “If I Ever Feel Better” – inserted in the encore to contradict the dramatic climax of the pulsating “Funky Squaredance,” Mars took it upon himself to venture out into the audience again for the grand finale of “1901,” climbing to the folks sitting in the stands to thank them for attending, and then crowd-surfing his way back to the stage.

Just further proof that when it comes to pleasing his audience, Mars is willing to practically stand on his head for their approval.

Taking a less dramatic, but equally confident approach in winning an audience over, was Newmarket’s Tokyo Police Club.

Performing selections from their recent album Champ and their debut Elephant Shell, the quartet relied on its unbridled enthusiasm of performing in front of a hometown crowd, a pleasing alchemy of rock and electronics to impress the crowd during “Tessellate” and “Wait Up (Boots Of Danger)” and short, bursts of energy that gelled with singer and bassist Dave Monk’s distinctive tenor.

It was a great effort that should serve them even better when they play the Kool Haus in January.



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