Photos by Jim Mimna
The Scene: Undaunted by the threats of severe weather and the last minute venue change from Red Rocks to the less environmentally stunning 1st Bank Center, Phoenix had to rise to the challenge last Wednesday of making up for this significant loss. Although plenty of neon garb and vintage Body Glove t-shirts dotted the sizeable and youthful crowd slowly making their way inside, the crowd’s general lack of urgency showed an underlying current of letdown. The now standard, but always awe inspiring Red Rocks experience, wasn’t going to happen and based on the size of the crowd, some had opted out of the experience entirely. However, a handful of people were spotted pre-partying with beer cups in hand on a party bus dance floor; elsewhere “Get Lucky” was forced through some blown out car speakers. The sudden turn of events didn’t have to be fatal.
Opener: Dinosaur Jr. Much to the crowd’s bewilderment, 90s alternative rock group Dinosaur Jr. appeared on stage as the opening act. The band played an energetic and even upbeat set, appearing not at all discouraged by the number of glowing screens Googling “Dinosaur Jr.” or completing another level on Candy Crush Saga. In any case, the recognizable and catchy “Feel the Pain” and their cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” wooed the crowd by the end. Recognizing the humor of the situation, bassist Lou Barlow yelped “Thank you Red Rocks!” as they walked off the stage to hearty cheers.
Phoenix: Phoenix wasted no time making their presence or intentions known, immediately launching into “Entertainment,” which features an all-encompassing keyboard part that played into the crowd’s excitement. With a large floor to ceiling screen lit up, the foursome lined up parallel to each other on the stage, giving the crowd its undivided attention as it immediately continued onto “Lasso” and then onto their hit “Lizstomania” from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Lead singer Thomas Mars, vying for maximum effect, trusted the crowd to sing the entirety of the chorus for “Lisztomania.” Capitalizing on the crowd’s now uncontainable fervor, Mars kicked it up a notch further, imploring, “We all wanted Red Rocks, but I believe it could be an epic night. It’s up to us, it’s up to you!” Phoenix’s strategy of making the event a team building exercise was working. While playing mostly songs off the new album Bankrupt! and Wolfgang, a few throwbacks to their previous disco sound were sprinkled in, including “Too Young”, ensuring that the crowd would keep its feet moving. Mars never let up, standing on a speaker prompting the crowd to clap during several songs, such as “Run Run Run” and “Chloroform.” Also making sure no one was left behind, Mars continued, helpfully pointing to the screen during “Trying to Be Cool” and remarking, “This is Versailles.”
The instrumentals “Love Like a Sunset Part I” and “Love Like a Sunset Part II” amounted to an intermission of sorts, as Mars took a break to give guitarists Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai the floor as they sweetly dragged out the last few notes of “Part II,” moving their guitars up and down in sync. Having now won over hearts and minds for the cause, concertgoers had no qualms about essentially doing The Wave as a giant spotlight periodically spanned the crowd. Ending on “1901”, Mars crowd surfed easily and even the people sitting in the stands had abandoned their seats to dance.
Coming out for an encore, Mazzalai and Mars settled the crowd down with a pared down version of “Countdown” before issuing a dance party decree and launching into “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Rome.” Carried into the crowd, Mars then proceeded to walk the length of the floor, inspiring personal interactions of hugs, hair tousles, and even waves of goodbye from those standing nearby, before walking back to the stage for a final reprise of “Entertainment.” “That was the best show I’ve ever seen,” a man remarked as people filed out to a clear, calm and RAINLESS night.
Stage Presence: A+
Set/Light Show: A