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    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    Phoenix @ Virgin Megastore, 9-23-06

    Among all of the Technicolor madness of Lovefest, one sign-waver in the crowd especially caught my eye. He was in front of Virgin Megastore, raising up the cover art of Phoenix’s third album It’s Never Been Like That. Underneath, it said that the band would be doing an in-store there at two o’clock. Checking my cell phone, I realized that was in fifteen minutes. Ah, I thought, another sweet privilege of living in a major metropolis.

    Phoenix was in town to play at Slim’s that night, but this event was free and here and now. With no effort at all, I claimed a spot in the front row. Most of the people around me seemed like they were just curious Virgin customers. As the roadies set up, I watched the last few floats trickling down and the costumed crowds dispersing. A young French couple chatted behind me, giving the moment an extra touch of atmosphere. Then precisely at two, the band stepped on stage to a smattering of applause.

    Phoenix, a pop-rock band from Paris, has deservedly been gaining attention and respect in the U.S. They specialize in hooky, infectious tunes that are also smart and well-constructed. They can get you dancing one minute and rocking out the next and doing both simultaneously the next. Lead singer Thomas Mars performs in a English crisp enough to pass for local, but he speaks in the heavy accent you’d anticipate from a Frenchman. Add it all up and you’ve got a fun and distinctive concert experience.

    The band kicked off with “Napeolon Says,” sounding great and energetic but hardly moving from their spots. They continued on through their singles, producing worthy versions of “Long Distance Call” and “Consolation Prizes.” Still, they seemed too stationary to fully deliver the effect of their foot-tapping melodies. But as Phoenix got deeper into their eight-song set and the crowd continued to grow, they loosened up. They started having more fun and Mars took more advantage of the stage. The band even turned up the excitement and volume for “Rally” and United's “If I Ever Feel Better."

    After their performance, Phoenix stuck around to sign their new album and chat with fans. A line quickly congealed that included almost everyone in the crowd. And so it seemed that the band’s in-store was quite the success, as Phoenix now had a lot more fans in the room than at their set’s start.

    The video for Phoenix's "Consolation Prizes"

    * MP3: "Long Distance Call" - Phoenix from It's Never Been Like That
    * MP3: "Rally" - Phoenix from It's Never Been Like That [Buy it]
    * Band Website: We Are Phoenix

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