On Tuesday night, French pop-rock band Phoenix performed the fourth of its self-proclaimed five-show residency at Los Angeles’ Fonda Theatre. Still touring off of its 2017 album “Ti Amo,” the band used the residency as an opportunity to tailor the Fonda to its live show, decorating the venue with an Italian telefono booth. The Fonda, a small venue for the band’s arena-sized ballads and stage presence, provided a more intimate show for a band as interactive with their audience as Phoenix. In this case, the interaction was amplified by the venue’s 1,200-person capacity.
The show began rather unusually for a concert, as Phoenix enlisted a presenter dressed in a suit to introduce the band in English, Spanish and Italian. When she finished, the opening notes to “J-Boy” emanated from the stage, and a colorful display of lights illuminated the six men on stage. The romantic dance ballad willed the crowd to their feet, and the band immediately pushed the energy forward with “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” highlight “Lasso.”
Despite their crisp, squeaky clean instrumentation, Phoenix brought an unique edge to traditional pop performances with their primal drumming and intricate songwriting. At the beginnings of “Lasso” and“Entertainment,”drummer Thomas Hedlund pounded his bass drum with a purpose audible enough to engage eager moshers scattered throughout the audience. Surprisingly, the audience had no issue singing along to every word of frontman Thomas Mars’ seemingly unending verses, especially on lyrical mazes such as “If I Ever Feel Better,” “Lisztomania” and “Role Model.”
Outside of “If I Ever Feel Better,” Phoenix reached back into their wheelhouse of other songs pre-”Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” masterfully mixing in fan favorites like “Long Distance Call” and “Consolation Prizes.”
The momentum propelled by the band’s flurry of hit songs came to a screeching halt when they played both parts of “Love Like a Sunset.” The opening keys and deep, heavy bass part signaled a change in energy, and Mars in turn used the song as an opportunity to take a breather, lying on his back on stage for the song’s entirety. Smooth basslines and funky synthesizers carried the instrumental track through the end. When the second part began, burnt orange and pink lights pervaded the stage, and brothers and guitarists Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai traded guitar riffs between optimistic lyrics from Mars.
As is the case with many shows in the city, it’s always a guessing game as to who might show up. On this cool Tuesday night, the French pop rockers brought out songwriter and multi instrumentalist Beck to sing “Lovelife,” a standout track off of “Ti Amo.” Beck followed this up by asking Mars to help him sing a couple of his own songs, including “Lost Cause” and “Jack-Ass.” Beck’s appearance and subsequent duets were memorable, if brief, and the tightly packed crowd of indie fans bid farewell to the decorated musician with enthusiastic cheers and applause.
In the band’s four-song encore, Mars made use of the estranged telefono booth during “Telefono,” even recreating the multilingual voicemail from the beginning of the song. No Phoenix show would be complete without an all-out celebration of its smash hit “1901,” where the audience found what little gas they had left in the tank to scream and shout the infectious “fold it” chorus. Finally, the show ended with a special rendition of “Ti Amo,” accompanied by Mars delivering high-fives to the audience and crowd-surfing his way around the entire dance floor. As the band left the stage for the final time, audience members were encouraged to stay, dance and eat gelato courtesy of the band, a request that many fans happily obliged.
If the surplus of smiles and sweat-soaked denim jackets exiting the venue were any indication, Phoenix shattered expectations of what a live pop performance could be. In the residency, the innovative band gave longtime fans the exclusive Phoenix experience they deserved, and, in some strange way, the show felt a homecoming for the band.