Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Phoenix @ Bowery Ballroom

Napoleon Says//Long Distance Call//Consolation Prizes//Run Run Run//Rally//Courtesy Laughs//Lost and Found//Everything Is Everything//I'm An Actor//If I Ever Feel Better//Funky Squaredance//Sometimes in the Fall

Encore: Too Young//Second to None

First thing that needs to be said about this show is the ridiculousness of the whole Camel tour ticket system. I had an "Invite" ticket, but when I got there, they claimed that they were full and weren't taking any more invite tickets. If the point of giving out the free invite tickets is to build a good image for Camel, that clearly backfired when a bunch of people were locked out of the show. I ended up buying a scalped ticket off someone because I had gone all the way down there and wanted to see Phoenix. But, it's still ridiculous that they gave out so many more tickets than they could let people in for. Why couldn't they just do regular ticketing, that would make so much more sense.

That said, once you're inside, other than a couple of Camel ads, this show was basically the same as the show I saw in May. Before I get into Phoenix, I'll just mention that The French Kicks were pretty good, but not good enough to make me not want their set to end so we could get to Phoenix. I was right up in the front and it was interesting that right after their set ended, the lead singer came out to yell at two people who were twirling around and shouting after him during the set. That's got to be tough. But, it was good because they left and I was able to move right up to front and center, about a person back from Thomas Mars. I don't think there was a better spot in the whole place.

Since seeing them back in May, the new album has grown on me since then, but with a few exceptions, the old material still outshines the new stuff, especially live. Of the new songs, the highlights were "Long Distance Call," which features some of the classic Phoneix synth sounds and "Lost and Found," which is really smooth and emotional. The opening set closer, "Sometimes in the Fall" was another really well done song, with some nice expansion on the recorded version.

However, for me at least, the joy of a Phoenix live show is seeing the epic versions of their best songs. Basically every song they play off the first two albums is amazing. "Everything is Everything" was a highlight, Thomas Mars hopped into the crowd at one point and they also did a section where the lights were off which was very cool. "I'm an Actor" is fantastic live, it's their heaviest song, becoming almost Zeppelin like with the punishing of that riff. "If You Ever Feel Better" was the other major highlight, probably a seven minute version of the song which flowed seamlessly into "Funky Squaredance." The way they play these songs, stretching them out and transforming them into lengthy jams is phenomenal. I think some of the new album songs would benefit from being altered in this way, I'm hoping when they tour for their next album, they push the third album songs the way they do the older material now.

Because I was right by the stage, I saw the whole setlist before they went on, and I did get a bit impatient waiting for the newer stuff. I hate to be that guy who wants them to play the old songs, but in this case, the old material is just stronger, especially live. Moving forward, if they keep "Long Distance Call" and "Lost and Found," the It's Never Been Like That material will stand with the rest, it's only when they have to go deeper into the weaker tracks that it suffers. But, it's mainly a suffering by comparison, the older songs are just so good that nearly anything would pale in comparison.

The other cool thing about yesterday's show was seeing Sofia Coppola in the audience. The Coppola/Mars child has such a genetic advantage over the rest of the populace, to have two ridiculously talented and good looking parents, plus all those Coppola family connections, it's kind of unfair. But, it was cool to see Sofia there, supporting the band.

I think Phoenix is one of the best live bands in the world. I wish they'd mix up the setlist a bit, but if I was still around, I'd definitely be at the September show, they're just that good. Hearing their live rendition of "Everything is Everything" or "If I Ever Feel Better" is one of the best concert experiences you'll ever have.

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