Few bands could draw as dedicated a crowd on a Monday in October as French alternative rock band Phoenix did to the House of Blues on Monday. The auteurs of one of 2009's biggest albums, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," brought in fans from all over the region, many wailing out lyrics from nearly every song played.
While there was surely a local prescene, it was evident that folks from Charleston, Wilmington and as far away as Greenville had made the trip to take in this popular act and to bask in the glory of a light show fit for a Pink Floyd concert.
Opening up were Brooklyn rock band A Million Years — who played a short set which we didn't get a chance to catch — and Los Angeles-based Wavves.
At first glance noise pop trio looks less like a big time rock band and more like your average high school garage act. Their sound was fun, yet slightly repetitive one which mashed up elements of past grunge/punk bands such as Nirvana, Green Day, The Ramones and The Pixies.
They brought plenty of energy, but without any real purpose or polish, which seemed to be in stark contrast to the ultra-slick act they were supporting. Still, songs such as "Idiot" and a song about Xanax seemed to stand out and define the careless, in-your-face vibe the band was aiming for.
During the intermission a fan was overheard saying "I heard they have a pretty cool light show," which would later turn out to be the understatement of the evening.
The set started off simple enough. Band members took to a dark stage with only a few spotlights as backlight and just a few staccato notes to begin one of their biggest hits "Listomania."
Right of the bat, this got the crowd involved and within the first three tracks the band kept up that intensity by pandering to the masses with flashes of bright lights and some up-close-and-personal treatment from singer Thomas Mars, who hopped from the stage to the pit's front railing to sing.
This stretch was followed by more fan favorites such as a smooth "Fences" accompanied by bursts from large red light bars on stage and a more upbeat version of "Girlfriend" which featured the band basking in a rainbow of light and calling for the crowd to get involved. As the audience obliged, raising their hands and calling along to the song's "well, well, well, well"s, even the HOB sound man was caught getting in on the action, mouthing along.
After being nearly blinded by pink light and strobes during an energetic performance of "Armstice," the band slowed down the pace for a few moments for a jam session which built slowly to a steady beating crescendo which featured Mars rolling around on the stage and a large white curtain dropping from the ceiling.
This was followed by some creepy, Halloween-esque piano and a deep synth beat which shook the whole venue and built the suspense for what was going on behind the curtain. Soon a battle began between the bassist and guitarist who alternately plucked at their instruments while creating large shadows from behind the curtain.
Once the curtain dropped, the band ranged into less-familiar material, hitting on older tracks such as "Rally" and slowing down a crowd who seemed to be mesmerized by the horizontal red lines which filled the standing area with light. This section also included a nice version of "Rome" and a thanks from the band to the fans who came out for their first trip to S.C. and all the folks who learned the words.
A slowly-ticking metronome set the tone for an out-there rendition of "Funky Squares" which featured Mars and at the mic with 9 spotlights crossed on him and his voice digitally manipulated to create an almost robotic sound that reminded this reviewer of what music might sound like in the 24th century.
From there, the band went guerilla, walking into the crowd with guitars, keyboards and mics to perform an intimate acoustic "Countdown."
Wrapping up the evening was a couple of older dancy numbers which got the crowd moving again before launching into the band's biggest hit "1901" to close out the evening.
It was a very well produced show that surely appeased hardcore Phoenix fans while pulling out enough parlor ticks and lighting changes to keep the casual fan interested. Overall, it was the sort of thing that makes you think Phoenix will likely be around doing this sort of lively song and dance number for years to come.