Review: ‘Phoenix/Metric’

Wednesday night's Los Angeles show seemed intimately familiar with their music, singing along and dancing throughout the 75-minute set.

Parisian quartet Phoenix initially made only moderate headway in the notoriously tough-to-crack U.S. marketplace since releasing their debut album a decade ago. But now their hard work appearing on latenight TV shows (“Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien”), taste-making programs (“Gossip Girl,” “Entourage”), film soundtracks and television commercials is paying off. The band has found great success with its recent full-length disc “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” and is easily filling large amphitheaters across the country, and the packed crowd at Wednesday night’s Los Angeles show seemed intimately familiar with their music, singing along and dancing throughout the 75-minute set.

The quartet, augmented to a six-piece unit with the addition of a keyboardist and drummer, offered up crowd-pleasing new singles “1901” and “Lisztomania” alongside earlier material that included the infectious “Long Distance Call” and “Napoleon Says” from 2006’s “It’s Never Been Like That.” Phoenix’s formidable rhythm section — mild-mannered, 1980s-influenced and poppish on the album — was kicked up several notches live, bringing the young hipster crowd to its feet from the set’s opening notes.

During the encore, vocalist Thomas Mars — accompanied only by a guitar — delivered a haunting, stripped-down rendition of “Playground Love,” by Air, one of the few fellow French pop groups to make a name for itself Stateside in recent years.

Earlier in the evening, Metric kicked things into gear with its own unique brand of indie rock. Fronted by charismatic singer Emily Haines, the American/Canadian quartet began their set quietly and built to a satisfying climax, performing several tracks from their self-released recent album, “Fantasies,” and ending with the rousing arena rocker “Stadium Love.”

Metric is another band that has achieved notoriety this year by doing things on their own terms, having self-released “Fantasies” on their own label and refusing to conform to industry-prescribed formulas. In keeping with this theme, Haines dedicated their penultimate song, “Gimme Sympathy,” to “anyone who dreams of having a life without a boss.” Given the way the record industry is going these days, this may soon be a reality for many bands.

Phoenix will appear in New York for two nights at Central Park’s Summerstage Sept. 25-26.


Greek Theater; 5,800 capacity; $35


Presented by Nederlander Concerts. Reviewed Sept. 16, 2009


Band: Thomas Mars, Deck D'Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz, Christian Mazzalai (with Robin Coudert and Thomas Hedlund). Also appearing: Metric.
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