Already scrawny, gangly Frenchmen in the first place, the members of hard-buzzing, soft-singing indie-rock band Phoenix must have lost another 10 pounds apiece during their performance Tuesday at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis.
Their sold-out, 80-minute concert was a grandly sweaty affair of a variety rarely seen in the often frigid Twin Cities.
Sure, part of the blame for the show's oven-baked quality belonged to the unusually balmy weather, and to the Varsity's apparent lack of air-conditioning to match its recently increased capacity. But Phoenix did its part, too, working the 800 fans who swooped up tickets into a frenzy with its jagged, giddy beats and a rock-showy array of whirring, hot stage lights.
In today's era of quick Internet stardom and blogger-inflamed acclaim, buzz bands rarely come to town with the kind of tight, cohesive and thoroughly engaging set that Phoenix played. That's probably because the Versailles-reared quartet (beefed up to a sextet on tour) has been around on a smaller scale for eight years, releasing three albums before this summer's breakout disc, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix."
The band kicked off the show with the lead track from the new album, "Lisztomania," getting one of its two infectious new hits out of the way right away. The other single, "1901," would wait until the very end, when the guys cleverly dragged it out, even restarting it after soaking up applause for 30 seconds or so. A true rock-starry moment.
The concert's other big highlight was the last song before the encore, "Rome," another new one that showed just how high the band can build its Strokes/Velvet Underground-ish guitar work and rolling beats.
Along with nearly every other song off "Wolfgang," the set list included older songs, ranging from the Air-like spacey groove "Run, Run, Run" to the New Wavey "Too Young."
Dressed in a rolled-sleeve oxford and wearing a straight mop-top haircut, singer Thomas Mars looked like a smiling version of Joy Division's Ian Curtis as he slowly, slyly danced about the stage or leaned into his microphone stand. The band's two extra touring members -- drummer Thomas Hedlund and keyboardist/percussionist Robert Coudert -- each proved invaluable, especially when they energetically hammered out dueling beats in such songs as "Sometimes in the Fall" and "Armistice," despite the unforgiving heat.
Who says the French are lazy?
See Phoenix's set list at startribune.com/poplife
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