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Phoenix delivers the year's best 30 minutes
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Phoenix delivers the year's best 30 minutes

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Phoenix at The End's
'Deck the Hall Ball'
December 15
WaMu Theater


On the one hand, there might not be much to say about a performer that plays four songs, wishes everyone a 'Merry Christmas,' and then exits the stage. On the other hand, we're talking about 2009's 'it' band, Phoenix.

The French quartet was an early bird on the lineup for the 'Deck the Hall Ball' last week, sponsored by local radio station The End. They began their set just before 7 p.m. with the bubbly hit 'Lisztomania' in front of a full crowd. Many who came specifically to check out these Euro hipsters braved rush hour traffic and sacrificed a normal dinner routine to see them in action. Fresh from a first-ever Grammy nomination and hundreds of critics' year-end lists for the album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the group has rapidly gained popularity in fan and media circles alike.

"We are Phoenix and we are coming from Paris, France," said lead singer Thomas Mars, who recently announced that he and Oscar-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola are expecting their second child.

"Lasso" was next, and it got some audience members bouncing off the floor, though the majority of concertgoers were probably still adjusting to seeing these fast-rising stars take the stage so early in the night. (The End, 107.7 FM, usually does a great job in presenting their festival lineups by least- to most-credible artists on the bill, but with Phoenix and equally brilliant Vampire Weekend going onstage before mediocre bands like Metric and 30 Seconds to Mars, this year's jingly bash was awkward.)

Next on Phoenix's set, "Girlfriend" sounded marvelous, and Mars insisted the crowd raise its hands and clap in unison as he zipped from one side of the stage to the other. In faded jeans, long-sleeve cobalt blue shirt, unpolished beige leather boots and messy hair, Mars fit the unkempt-yet-sexy Parisian profile beautifully. Fellow unit members - guitarists Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai and bassist Deck D'arcy - were a bit more chic with their wardrobe choices.

Phoenix concluded their 30-minute appearance with "1901," currently featured on a nationwide Cadillac ad campaign. People on the main floor danced and sang the catchy chorus, "I'm falling, falling, falling, falling," and the band extended the ending, putting an extra spin on things. Since this was my only opportunity to hear this song live this year, I moved to it wildly while watching the two mounted LED screens.

Mars stage-dived into the audience and surfed from the front to the back, then leapt again on stage to put away the closing number. He thanked everyone for clapping their hands, then shouted "Merry Christmas" before disappearing behind the curtains.

The experience of being in the same room with Phoenix here in Seattle at a time when they've surged upwards on everybody's radar was almost surreal - they were on and off the stage in the same time it takes to watch an episode of Modern Family. But instead of complaining about it, I'm going to embrace the privilege of having seen them live during this banner year. Listening to "1901" and "Lisztomania" free of earphones, with Thomas Mars just feet away from me, was a perfect holiday gift. So, thank you, The End, for 30 of the best minutes of my year!

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