Plaid shirts, wing-tip shoes, and every other marker of rightthissecond 2009 was out in full force Friday night at Phoenix’s sold-out show at Terminal 5. From the second we walked into the cavernous, three-story club, there was a palpable level of excitement and anticipation pulsating through the venue, one that we haven’t felt at a rock show in New York in, well, forever. Which, to be frank, caught us a little off guard, especially considering the band had just played to rapturous praise one night before at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Who knew there was such pent-up demand for a bunch of French rockers who, up to this point, were more well regarded for the crisp and clean production on their albums than their live performances? But from the killer opening chords of “Lisztomania,” their impossibly poppy first single from their new LP, it became readily apparent that everyone in attendance was ready for a Friday-night dance party.
Front man Thomas Mars, who makes time with Sofia Coppola when not whirling about onstage, kept up a practiced French nonchalance throughout, staying on key amid trademark nonsense lyrics and delirious twistlike dance moves. With all the fist-pumping, flag-waving (indeed!), and quasi-underage hysterics, one would be forgiven for feeling eye-rollingly transported to the last time a Euro pop band hurtled toward ubiquity (Franz Ferdinand circa 2004? Coldplay circa 2000?), but on awesomely poppy tracks like “Rally,” the killer “Girlfriend,” and “Long Distance Call,” the energy was too high to stay jaded.
As the dancetastic set went on, we climbed higher and higher above the fray, finally finding refuge on the second mezzanine. The view from above? A thousand iPhones, glowing blue like fireflies amid the multitudes. To wit: A cursory Twitter search later that night revealed nearly 100 koanlike dispatches from inside: (oregon_jon: “@boffing just beefed on some boring girls at the #Phoenix show at terminal 5”). But even the tweeting masses found themselves stuffing their precious mobile devices into their pockets during the propulsive, extended codas of songs like “Run Run Run” and “Rome,” the latter of which was accentuated by pulsating, ravelike strobe lights that helped temporarily morph the band into something that sounded exhilaratingly close to Underworld.
The encore came just shy of 11 p.m., with Mars calling for the lights to be cut during an extended version of their other hit single of the moment, “1901.” With a coy smile, he descended into the crowd, allowing approximately two minutes of manhandling before security pulled him up by his skinny jeans. As we walked out of the club along with thousands of other sweaty souls sporting ear-to-ear permagrins, it definitely felt like we were in the midst of experiencing something that can only be described as a “moment.”