Phoenix Rock The Legendary Apollo Theater NYC: Concert Review

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Phoenix Live @ The Apollo May 13, 2013 – Concert Review

The beloved French band delivered a magnificent set at the legendary Harlem venue to an intimate crowd.

When Phoenix released their sublime fourth album, the mischievously-titled Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, in 2009, things started to go a little crazy for the French four-piece. That release not only went gold in the States, but it also won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album the following January. When they played Madison Square Garden in New York that October, they were joined onstage by fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk. At Coachella this year, R&B crooner R. Kelly graced them with his presence. And on Monday night at Harlem’s iconic Apollo Theatre, there were no such gimmicks — nor did the band need them.

Save for a secret gig at the start of April, that Madison Square Garden show was the last time they played New York — to a sold-out crowd of 18,000 or so people. This, then, was a rather more intimate affair, as the Apollo holds less than a tenth of that number.

A few weeks after the release of their long-awaited fifth album, Bankrupt!, and augmented to a six-piece for the evening, the result was a gig that was as captivating as it was energizing. More than that, it was an incredibly personal performance. Halfway through third song “Lisztomania” — one of the finest cuts from their breakthrough album — vocalist Thomas Mars hopped offstage and climbed into the audience. While the rest of the band continued on with slick conviction, Mars weaved his way through a sea of bodies noticeably shocked that the singer was right there. Mars, too, seemed somewhat in awe of his surroundings — while the Apollo is far from a huge venue, it’s certainly a magnificent one.

Indeed, the electro-rock/synth-pop band’s performance, as well as their effortlessly cool demeanor, matched the splendor of their surroundings every step of the way. Smoke, spotlights, strobes and a digitized backdrop created specific set pieces for each song, turning them into unique, mind-blowing audio-visual sensations that totally consumed the room.

Each song, from the impossibly catchy harmonies of opener “Entertainment”, through the charming grace of “The Real Thing” and old favorite “Long Distance Call” to the energetic zest of “Armistice” and the upbeat dance grooves of “SOS In Bel Air” totally consumed the room. The band didn’t just play these songs, but they ensured that the room became these songs, and that the songs became the room. There was no escape from the power — not that anybody wanted to escape. But beyond that, it was also a performance of invention and innovation. “Sunskrupt!” combined “Bankrupt!” and both parts of “Love Like A Sunset,” while “Too Young” and “Girlfriend” morphed into one song with a perfect precision.

Interestingly, although the majority of the night was full of fun, feverish energy, the highlight came in the form of something much quieter and contemplative. After ending the main set with a sublime, high-octane and raucous version of “1901”, Mars returned with guitarist Christian Mazzalai for a sparse, stripped down version of “Countdown”. Beautiful, melancholy and haunting in equal measure, Mars sat on the edge of the stage while he sang, the weight of the world hanging heavy on every word that left his mouth.

But there was no time to get wrapped up in the quiet sadness of the moment — as soon as the song was done, the rest of the band returned to the stage and  immediately launched into the frenzied, climatic one-two punch of “Don’t” and then “Rome.”  After a brief thank you, the reprise of “Entertainment” filled the room and Mars was back in the crowd again, up close and personal for one final farewell. The look of awe and incredulity on his face as he climbed across the seats and stared up at those on the balcony above him said it all — a truly majestic, memorable night by a group very much at the top of their game, it was clearly just as special for the band as it was for everybody watching.

Set List:

Entertainment
Lasso
Lisztomania
Long Distance Call
The Real Thing
S.O.S. In Bel Air
Fences
Sunskrupt!
Too Young+Girlfriend
Trying To Be Cool
Drakkar Noir
Chloroform
Armistice
1901
Countdown
Don’t
Rome

Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner on His Band & Townes Van Zandt

Arctic Monkeys band members

Arctic Monkeys band members

 

Alex Turner: “Last year I was trying to come to terms with the idea that I’m a songwriter. I’ve gotten into country music, which I never really had a connection with or understood before. But someone like
Townes Van Zandt is amazing — that’s what music’s all about, when you hear something and you don’t really have a choice but to think, ‘Oh fuck, all right, I’m going there then.’ That’s what I got with his records.”

THE BAND

Arctic Monkeys are an English indie rock band. Formed in 2002 in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield, the band currently consists of Alex Turner (lead vocals, lead/rhythm guitar), Jamie Cook (rhythm/lead guitar), Nick O’Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Matt Helders (drums, backing vocals).

The band have released four studio albums: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006), Favorite Worst Nightmare (2007), Humbug (2009) and Suck It and See (2011), as well as one live album At the Apollo (2008). The band’s debut album became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, surpassing Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and remains the fastest-selling debut album for a band in the UK. The band have won five Brit Awards—winning Best British Group twice, and have twice been nominated for Grammy Awards.

Last year Turner confirmed on 16 February that the band had recently recorded a new song, to be released before summer, and will be returning to the studio over the summer to record. Turner also discussed the direction in which the band were headed regarding the sound of their next album, saying that it would bear more similarities with the “dirty side” of  “Suck It and See” and songs such as “Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair”.

On 26 February, the band released a brand new song titled “R U Mine?” on their YouTube channel. On 4 March, it went to No. 23 on the UK Singles Chart on downloads alone. On 21 April, the song was released as a single, with the track “Electricity” as a b-side, released additionally for the Record Store Day.

On 17 September, internet rumours suggested that the band were about to begin recording for their 5th album, in the Joshua Tree desert in California. The rumours were confirmed true by Matt Helders’ mother when she tweeted: “I don’t know if it helps to clear things up but lads are in the desert!”

Arctic Monkeys announced, on 27 November, their first live appearances for 2013 at various European festivals, indicating they will go on tour with their upcoming album 2013. So far, Arctic Monkeys have been confirmed for Open’er Festival, where they will perform on July 4, 2013, and Super Bock Super Rock Festival, where they will perform on July 18, 2013. Rumors suggest that these festivals will be practice for an upcoming album tour.

Turner has maintained a very private life, and shunned media publicity when declared the Coolest Man On The Planet by NME magazine in December 2005.

The Arctic Monkeys played the historic Apollo Theater in NYC. The band had a great welcome. Located in Harlem, the Apollo Theater was one of the most important centers of black culture in the twentieth century and continues to this day to be a wealth of innovative programs and artistic greatness.