French alternative rock band, Phoenix performed at Aragon Ballroom on Saturday, September 28th for their sold out show in support of their fifth studio album ‘Bankrupt’ delivering an arena-worthy set, complete with colorful stadium-styled lighting, a large video backdrop and confetti cannons. The crowd reveled in Thomas Mars’ interaction with the appreciative audience whose enthusiasm rivaled the band’s elusive energy.
Thomas Mars, Deck d’Arcy, Christian Mazzalai and Laurent Brancowitz released ‘Bankrupt’ four years after their Grammy award winning, ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’. Rather than coast on the synth-flavored hook-filled pop that captured a larger audience, “Bankrupt!” finds the band reflecting on their newfound circumstances—both in lyric themes and in musical intensity. The new material’s sentiments reflected a contemplated choice for a band whose success, though hard-won, was seemingly unexpected. The refrains in “S.O.S. in Bel Air” built tension and release; singer Thomas Mars declared “You can’t cross the line, but you can’t stop trying” and repeated an “alone” lament before spitting out a defiant “S.O.S.,” signaling that success and its rich surroundings conjured the need for an escape route.
“Lisztomania” prompted Mars to jump into the audience, a feat he repeated at encore with the addition of some crowd surfing. He also delivered an emotional acoustic version of “Countdown” from the balcony. Mars’ cohorts matched his manic energy: guitarists and brothers Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai and bassist Deck d’Arcy. Together, their explosive, careening “Run Run Run,” “1901” and winsome “Rally” in particular showcased their range and prowess.
At one point, confetti cannons rained fake $100 bills over fans bearing the name of the man who designed the faux cash, Richard Prince, an artist who pulls from other artists’ work to create his own art. Whether it was commentary on the deception of money, their album title, the definition of art or something else altogether was unclear, but what Phoenix did make certain during their set was their rise is well deserved.
Thomas Mars exclaimed over the deafening crowd, “This is the most beautiful place we’ve ever played.”
He shared that the band had been waiting to come back to the Uptown venue, as they took that same stage four years ago in support of Wolfgang. Returning in 2013, the charm of the Aragon (with its courtyard interior, ceiling painted like a swirling night sky, and immaculate wood floors that still have feathers beneath them from when the venue opened as a true ballroom back in 1926) played great companion to the French foursome. Thomas’ crowd surfing, the band’s professional preciseness, the career-spanning setlist, and a powerful show book-ended by Bankrupt‘s ”Entertainment” couldn’t have made for a more perfect evening.
Long Distance Call
The Real Thing
S.O.S. in Bel Air
Trying to Be Cool/Drakkar Noir/Chloroform
Run, Run, Run
If I Ever Feel Better/Funky Squaredance
For more information on Phoenix, please visit www.wearephoenix.com.
The Aragon Entertainment Center is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave in Chicago. For more information and tickets, please visit www.aragon.com.