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Phoenix live in Berlin: France’s best indie pop band impresses in the Columbiahalle

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Breaks, breakups, comebacks – such dramas are standard for bands that have been around for a few decades. Phoenix are an exception. Founded in Versailles in 1995, the group has never disappeared but has always continued to work. This saved them a lot of obvious headline phrases with Asche and their name.

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However, it has recently become much quieter around the quartet, whose greatest time was in the noughties. When she released her seventh album “Alpha Zulu” at the beginning of November, it was no longer an event that electrified the pop world – understandable, but a mistake. Because it’s their best record since the Grammy-winning “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” from 2009 – and after years of absence it finally brings them back to Berlin, where they still fill the Columbiahalle.

It’s the only German show on their tour and they start right away with their biggest hit “Lisztomania”. Terrific. The euphoria level in the hall is immediately under the ceiling. During the chorus, singer Thomas Mars knows he’s not needed and holds the microphone out to the crowd. But he doesn’t let the closing verse on the topic “show time” be taken away, after all it’s “time to show off” – and Phoenix do that in a stunningly likeable and casual way in the next 100 minutes.

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Laurent Brancowitz, Thomas Mars, Deck D’Arcy and Christian Mazzalai are lined up side by side at the edge of the stage, tour keyboardists and drummers are placed on a pedestal behind them. The four Phoenixes, who have been friends with each other since childhood, appear very harmonious, which also contributes to the fact that they are about the same height and all wear black skinny jeans and leather ankle boots.

The classic indie rock uniform suits them, the mid-forties have aged well, just like their songs. “Lasso” starts with a snappy, powerful start – drummer Thomas Hedlund bangs the skins with crazy force – and then spirals into the Phoenix-typical, melodic-loving elegance, which is always mixed with a slight melancholy.

After around 20 minutes, the first new piece is the “Alpha Zulu” title song, for which bassist D’Arcy and guitarist Brancowitz switch to electronic consoles. Like on the entire album, Mazzalai’s guitar plays more of a supporting role, but it shines with a kind of surf rock descent towards the end of the song.

The song resonates much like the new “Tonight” – an instant catchy tune carried by a bassline reminiscent of early Maxïmo Park. The driving “After Midnight” makes one think of the Strokes, which comes across as much rockier live than on the album.

The Strokes, who also came to fame in the noughties, found their way back to their old strength two years ago with “The New Abnormal” – but their performance at the Tempelhof Sounds Festival in June was a chaotic affair because of Julian Casablancas’ long erratic announcements . Thomas Mars pleasantly keeps it to the bare minimum, but still connects with the audience.

When he sings, he moves smoothly and prancing between his colleagues, sometimes kneeling in front of them. At the end of the encore piece “Telephone”, which is partly sung in Italian, he stands on the purple harpsichord that the band only has with them for this song – a bit of crazy extravagance has to be there. Speaking of which: Phoenix recorded “Alpha Zulu” in the Louvre during lockdown times. A lot of effort that was worth it.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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