After M.I.A.’s show earlier in the month, the talk around town began to focus on French rock band Phoenix, the next group to take on Cornell University’s Barton Hall. Riding a wave of stateside success, the rockers were expected to deliver nothing short of a memorable performance and lived up to the expectation through mesmerizing audio and visual display.
Prior to Phoenix’s set, opening act Jenny and Johnny stepped out on stage, ready to show the Big Red a good time. The four-person band is fronted by the dating duo of Jenny Lewis, frontwoman of indie rock band Rilo Kiley, and solo artist Johnathan Rice.
Jenny and Johnny’s set introduced the audience to an alternative country style as the couple rocked out to Americana-tinged songs. Their harmonizing vocals paired with gritty guitar licks won over the crowd as appreciative cheering and clapping followed each song. Throughout their time in the spotlight, Lewis and Rice traded bass, acoustic and electric guitars with each other after almost every song, proving their wide-ranging musical ability.
Following a relatively speedy breakdown and setup session, it was finally time for Phoenix to rock the stage. The band emerged from the shadows awash in blinding white stage lights and was met with wild applause.
The rock stars wasted no time in getting to the fan favorites as they kicked their set into overdrive with “Lisztomania,” “Lasso” and “Girlfriend,” all taken from their Grammy award-winning album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.”
From the opening seconds of “Lisztomania,” those congregated made it known they were ready to rock as they surged towards the stage. Cries of “like a riot, like a riot” rang out from the hundreds of faces beaming up at lead singer Thomas Mars as he paraded around the stage while mounting amplifiers. The set-opening number jumpstarted the show and was incredibly effective.
Mid-set, the band broke out “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’s” instrumental masterpiece, “Love Like a Sunset.” A white curtain tumbled from the rafters, which then had shadows of the band members projected upon it. As the beats built in intensity, a glorious light show ensued followed by Mars uttering the few lyrics included in the song. This beautiful piece of visual art only enhanced the already spectacular performance.
The band did sprinkle in some older favorites such as a powered up version of “Run Run Run,” and a stripped down rendition of “Everything is Everything,” both off its sophomore album “Alphabetical.” However, the band pandered mostly to newer fans as they played “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” in its entirety.
The only miscue anybody noticed was during Mars’ introduction of “Fences.” As the group worked into the beginning of the song, he proclaimed, “Ithaca is fences, this is ‘Fences.’” This was an unfortunate faux pas as Mars must have misunderstood the signs around Cornell’s campus after fences were erected around gorges to help prevent student suicides. The band overcame this relatively insignificant obstacle and continued to go forth and rock.
At the conclusion of its lengthy and enjoyable four-song encore, Phoenix arrived at the song most were waiting to hear, “1901.” The audience exploded with cheers and shrieks upon hearing the opening chords and there was no turning back from there. The band dealt Cornell a parting shot as they poured everything they had left into one song while Mars crowd surfed on top of outstretched hands.