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For many bands, a live show begins by taking the stage in front of eager and excited fans eagerly awaiting their number one song. Not Phoenix. With 5 albums under their belt, it’s hard not to play a hit. You think you’ve heard your favourite and then they smash out another. Their entire performance in Sydney on Wednesday was gripping from beginning to end.
The French electronic/synth rock group opened with Entertainment, the first incredibly popular release off their latest album Bankrupt!, but it almost seemed to catch fans off guard. Little did we know that this strong start was merely a taste of what was yet to come.
The second song up was Lasso, backed powerfully by Lisztomania. This defining track off the widely acclaimed Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was always going to be a crowd pleaser. Here singer Thomas Mars began to exercise his hypnotic power as a performer, going quiet to leave us singing the first half of the chorus in testament to the song’s title, inspired by the term coined to describe frantic fan behaviour.
Now the performance was well and truly underway as we were officially greeted with a big yell of “WE ARE PHOENIX!” and the question: “Sydney how loud can you get!?” The answer? Pretty damn loud.
This build-up of energy was ideal to ease the crowd into 2006 cut Long Distance Call, receiving just as much enthusiasm from the crowd as their current hits. We then travelled even further back in time to a mellow Too Young, the true Phoenix fans from years passed revealing themselves amongst the sea of voices.
The crowd began to clap en masse during the second half of Girlfriend, before the excitement peaked as white lights were aimed at the centered disco ball and sparkling radiance scattered around the room. The backdrop of the stage became an electric purple perfectly accompanying the groovy disco track Fences.
The stunning visual effects continued as the digitised screen transformed into an enchanting rainbow for Trying To Be Cool, a prelude to the dreamy electronic sounds of Chloroform as Mars began to wave his arms up and down, encouraging the crowd to do the same, before he began singing.
The only song introduced for the night was The Real Thing before the real use of the digital screen become apparent – the static-like TV image turned into a video and teleported us to the streets of Paris, driving down the Champs Élysées on a journey that would become the second best part of the night.
Love Like A Sunset parts 1 and 2 were cushioned by Bankrupt! and the sonic capabilities of the Hordern were tested as a roaring bass line went rippling through the audience while the screen flashed different colours along with beams and strobe lights. It was mesmerising to behold and proved that Phoenix are truly masters of live performance.
Still, it was the audience receiving the praise: “Thank you for packing this place up. We don’t have that many people in France. We have to come all the way across the globe to have this many people.” There were some empty seats but there was no denying the captivation across the room.
Consolation Prizes, S.O.S in Bel Air, Armistice and 1901 — their first real crossover hit — wrapped up the main set and were all greeted with open arms, fist pumps, dancing and friends clinging to each other while singing in unison.
There’s always room for an encore, and Thomas and Chris did an acoustic version of Countdown. Then the highlight of the evening — If I Ever Feel Better and Rome precluded some thrilling rockstar antics as Mars ran through the crowd and along the seating.
The excitement and shock of the crowd was extreme. Crazed fans began to run through trying to get the best view of Mars who headed towards the front-middle of the crowd where he was lifted during the final moments of their second performance of Entertainment for the night.
Ending back where it all started, Mars crowd surfed his way towards the stage and this time around we were more than ready to dance and sing along before the last chord was strung for the night.
Photo by Yael Stempler