ACL Live Shot: Phoenix

Phoenix has come a l-o-n-g way since ACL 2009

Phoenix risen: Thomas Mars
Phoenix risen: Thomas Mars
photo by Gary Miller

Four years ago, Thomas Mars’ face had the look of genuine disbelief as he surveyed the afternoon crowd at ACL Fest’s AMD stage. He gathered himself, jumped off of the platform, and sprinted through the barriers separating the crowds, peppering the audience with high fives. Mars remembers that day, too.

“We were here four years ago,” he announced midway through Phoenix’s Sunday set. “That was the first large crowd that we’d ever played to.”

Then, Mars launched himself into the crowd – just as he had done years before.

If you use set times as a litmus test for relevancy, the French pop-rockers have moved well beyond the sweat-box afternoon slots to overlapping with Thom Yorke and Flea. Despite Phoenix’s tripled star power since 2009, the band seems largely the same. It still takes the time to reward loyal fans, flipping far back into its catalog for songs like “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Run Run Run,” which predate 2009’s U.S. breakthrough Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. Its frontman still crowd surfs, high fives, and grins at his own fortune.

Phoenix has, however, added news songs to the repertoire. The band’s broken in Bankrupt! cuts “Entertainment” and “S.O.S. in Bel Air” since it swung through the Moody Theater in May, leaving them much more comfortable among well-worn hits, though true comfort wasn’t in short order. During the one-two punch of “Lasso” and “Lisztomania” it was easier to hear the crowd singing anything than Mars himself.

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