Forgive the cliché, but Phoenix has risen once again, stronger than ever. This past weekend in Miami, the band brought some truly dazzling fireworks to illuminate its return.
The band hasn't yet released its forthcoming album, Ti Amo, due out in June and
Fans were elbow-to-elbow. It was an odd mixture of perfume and marijuana, a reminder that this was a classy night out but still a rock show, populated mostly by hipsters old enough to have kids waiting at home but young enough to wear flannel or bunny ears.
The opener was Whitney, a six-piece from Chicago born out of the ashes of the Smith Westerns. The band was bouncy and fun, like the jangly bells on the ankle of a belly dancer. Whitney was a combo of Saturday-morning cartoon playfulness and upbeat folk rock bolstered by horns, acoustic guitars, and a piano older than anyone in the band. They performed their set underneath a half-raised curtain that hinted at the surprises to come.
It was immediately clear when Phoenix appeared onstage that the band was all-in with its new album, Ti Amo, both with the radiating neon red heart on the drummer’s kit and with the heart frame Snapchat filter that appeared on the phones of attendees. Aside from the music, the stage setup was perhaps one of the standout elements of the experience.
A slanted mirror situated above the band reflected a number of visually gymnastic effects back at the crowd, including the impression that concertgoers were watching two bands play at once, except one was upside down and floating.
For Phoenix's first number, the title track off the forthcoming record, the stage was bathed in a glowing crimson light that created the vibe of looking through a window in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
The show felt like it truly began with the second song, “Lasso,” off the band's only platinum-selling album, 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Paired with disco lights, the number was a revelation: Phoenix, so chill on record, broke out into a pure dance-rock band.
“Long Distance Call” was a music video come to life. Diamonds, prisms, and shifting landscapes enveloped the room, following the rhythm of the music and the footsteps of the freewheeling guitarists and their Elvis hip gyrations. At times, the show exuded a tropical nightclub vibe, the kind found on some French colonial island in a remote part of the Pacific, free from bills and responsibilities.
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Celebrating themselves and their impending takeover of the charts once again, the bandmates trotted out a graphic of a bursting rainbow topped by a sign spelling out the group's name in lights, the sort usually reserved for county fairs. It properly encapsulated the jubilant and whimsical carnival atmosphere.
At the end of the show, during the close of an encore that included “Countdown” and “1901,” lead singer Thomas Mars battled his way to the rear of the room and stood on the shoulders of fans to personally thank everyone in the back. He then crawled/surfed his way back to the stage, all while his bandmates marked the journey by playing a festive jungle beat.
The dizzying perspective reflected by the magic mirror wasn’t the only device employed to persuade attendees to think differently about the band. The creative use of lights and space allowed Phoenix to reach out to the audience and drag it into their hypnotic, kaleidoscope world. When that wasn’t enough, the bandmates, Mars in particular, literally and figuratively sought Miami out by any means necessary.