Phoenix/Neon Indian | SoCal | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Phoenix & Neon Indian :: 09.19.10 :: Santa Barbara Bowl :: Santa Barbara, CA

Phoenix's Thomas Mars
A youthful energetic crowd arrived early for a concert by the Grammy winning French electronic rock group Phoenix. The early bird fans were treated to an opening set by chillwave band Neon Indian. Chillwave is one of the latest labels for what is essentially the evolution of electronic music. Ever since John Cage began experimenting with electronic gadgets in the 1940s to create a new form of music, musicians have been transforming the synth music sound into an ever-evolving art form. At the same time, music journalists have been constantly striving to invent new labels to describe each progressive wave of innovative electronic music. Neon Indian is the brainchild of Alan Palamo. Much like John Cage before him, Palamo began creating his music alone, experimenting along the way with new electronic music techniques. He creates his music using a loop based Mac software program called Albeton Live. One of the first software sequencers designed to be used in concert, Abelton Live is truly a whole new way to perform live electronic music. Onstage, Palamo is joined by Ronald Gierhart (guitar), Jason Faries (drums) and Leanne Macomber (keyboards). The trio creates a rich jam band backdrop to Palomos' eerie synths. Music critics were instantly enthralled by the band's first release, Psychic Chasms, and their live shows have received near- universal praise. The band was the perfect warm up for Phoenix, and their dreamy sound sent many fans into a dancing trance.

As the the sun set into the Pacific Ocean and twilight fell over the Santa Barbara Bowl, an impatient crowd surged towards the stage in anticipation of Phoenix, who finally obliged and took to the stage in an explosion of light and sound. They wasted no time enrapturing the audience, opening with their biggest hit "Listzomania." Thousands of frenzied fans gyrated to the music and screamed their approval. Charismatic vocalist Thomas Mars immediately engaged the crowd and sang confidently in his quirky trademark voice.

Phoenix's Deck D'Arcy
One of the most widely successful pop acts ever to emerge from France, partly because they write interesting lyrics and sing in English, Phoenix has developed a unique sound. Like their label mates Air, the band exhibits some of the telltale traits popular with other French pop bands like strong synth tracks and overpowering bass lines. But the band also features strong English language harmonies and visceral rock jams, uncharacteristic of other successful French groups. The resulting sound has enabled the band to create steady stream of hits for the past decade. Their latest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, has propelled Phoenix into an arena filling live band, who sold out the 18,000 seat Hollywood Bowl the night before the Santa Barbara show.

Phoenix is now a veteran live rock act and besides Mars' commanding presence all the core members have become consummate performers, as well as accomplished musicians. Guitar players Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai prance about the stage, dancing and smiling while trading riffs and meshing catchy rhythms. Bassist Deck D'Arcy lays down a mesmerizing, relentless beat uncharacteristic of his French pop roots.

By the time the band played their fourth and final encore song, "1901," the entire Santa Barbara crowd was in a dancing frenzy. The synth drenched dance club hit is mandatory on any contemporary DJ's playlist. This final song brought the band's 90-minute set full circle, delivering sheer excitement from the opening notes to the final closing crescendo. Vive La Phoenix!

Phoenix Setlist
Lisztomania, Lasso, Long Distance, Fences, Girlfriend, Armistice, North, Love Like a Sunset, Pt. I, Love Like a Sunset, Pt. 2, Run Run Run, If I Ever Feel Better, Rally, Rome, Funky Squaredance
E: Love For Granted, Les Enfants, Everything Is Everything, 1901

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[Published on: 9/29/10]

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