Phoenix (Band) at the Marquee Theatre
Just how ridiculous are the Grammy Awards? The nominees for 2010 "Best Alternative Music Album" included Depeche Mode and David Byrne, two acts that were active for a full decade before the category was created in 1991. Also, this year's winner was Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix -- a French indie outfit that played the Marquee last night -- instead of Yeah Yeah Yeahs' It's Blitz, which wasn't only one of the best albums of the last year, but the last decade.
Kirsten Veng-Pedersen Phoenix singer Thomas Mars on stage at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. See more shots in our Phoenix Slide Show.
Okay, I admit it: I have no idea why people go gaga for Phoenix, which sold out the Tempe theater. After watching the veteran act (which has been plugging away in one form or another since 1999 without getting much attention before last year) play for an hour and a half, I'm no more clear on that. (Read a selection of the crowd's tweets here.)
As the band showed last night, they make the sort of solid, inoffensive indie rock (with an occasional electronic flair) that a company like Cadillac would put in a commercial. On wax, Phoenix is just so much less interesting than either of the other two prominent Parisian duos they're often lumped together with, Air and Daft Punk. Live? Well, let's just say I'd much rather watch my pirated copy of Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem 'one more time' instead of standing in a sweaty, oversold Marquee Theatre again.
I was unable to ascertain whether my theory that anyone who's heard Moon Safari couldn't possibly be excited by "Lisztomania" (which opened the show) or "1901" (which closed it) was correct based on last night's show, but I suspect it's so. Unfortunately, I have heard Moon Safari. And Homework. Honestly, I'd think it was insanely unfair to compare a workmanlike indie band like Phoenix to their much more ambitious compatriots but for the fact that the band just took home a Grammy. As it happens, though, the group (not particularly dapper for Frenchmen, attired this evening in slacks and plain, button-up shirts) just received one of the highest awards the American music industry can bestow on an album.
For a moment, as the band wound up its first set, really hitting its stride just before the encore break with "Rome" and the awkwardly named "Funky Squaredance" from their now-dated 2000 debut, United, I could almost feel the excitement. "Rome" came with a nice loud chunk of guitar and what singer Thomas Mars said were the Parisian-style claps ("When I was a boy in Paris we clapped like this . . .") but as the encore began with the brooding, not-nearly-as-philosophical-as-it-sounds "Everything Is Everything," the momentum was gone.
Everything is everything
The more I talk about it
The less I do control
Everything means EVERYTHING
Can't understand a word
Half of the stuff I'm sayin'
Not quite cogito, ergo sum.
I guess they ain't making French wordsmiths like Descartes anymore.
Or French indie bands like Air and Daft Punk.
Last Night: Phoenix at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
Better Than: Hmmm. Well, lots of things, I guess. It's just hard for me to get past all the things it's not better than, as outlined above.
Personal Bias: None. Really. I swear.
Random Detail: Having the giant PHOENIX banner of their album art work already hanging during the opener, Sea Wolf, was the sort of laziness-inspired oversight I look for in bands that don't really do much to inspire me. Considering the paltry nature of Phoenix's stage show, maybe they could have at least saved the unveiling of the banner for intermission.
Further Listening/Watching: This incredibly painful interview by MySpace Music. Seriously, it makes me want to smash something.