Review: 2 takes on Phoenix concert in Manila

By Vince Garcia and Joko Magalong,

Posted at Jan 22 2014 04:52 PM | Updated as of Jan 23 2014 07:48 PM

MANILA -- Here are two separate reviews of the successful concert of the French band Phoenix on Tuesday night at the World Trade Center in Manila presented by Karpos Multimedia Inc.

Review: 2 takes on Phoenix concert in Manila 1
Phoenix performs at the World Trade Center. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for

She said

On Tuesday, Phoenix, the indie band from Versailles, France, drove fans crazy -- and some to tears -- in a phenomenal concert in the World Trade Center in Manila.

The sold-out concert had scalpers roaming around, trying to entice people to sell their “extra” tickets, and their overtures were met with a look that said, "No way."

Young people dressed to the nines, with their cool hats and bare midriff tops were there en masse. Yuppies and surprisingly even whole families scrambled to get to their seats or find a place to stand comfortably to see the stage.

Then the lights went on, and the stage was on fire with red lights. The first song was "Entertainment" from Phoenix’s new album, "Bankrupt!," was a call for those in the seated area to stand up and go wild.

And in true Filipino fashion, the audience sang along -- in tune of course. During the press conference the day before, the band was asked if they mind fans singing along with the wrong lyrics, to which guitarist Laurent Brancowitz said, “No it’s fine…We like it.”

And if my unknown seatmate that didn’t stop singing from the start of the concert was any indication, I’d like to think that most of the capacity crowd sang the correct lyrics.

“We waited 14 years to come here in the Philippines. You’re the best crowd, the loudest!” vocalist Thomas Mars addressed the crowd.

And why wouldn’t the audience be loud? Mixing the new with the old, the band, composed of Mars, Deck D’ Arcy (keys/bass), Christian Mazzalai (guitar) and Brancowitz, performed their older hits like “Lasso,” “Lizstomania,” “Long Distance Call,” “Too Young,” “Consolation Prizes,” “Girlfriend,” “Armistice” and “1901,” as well as new songs like “Trying to be Cool,” “Drakkar Noir” (wherein they flashed a picture of Mayon Volcano on the big screen to the delight of the audience), “Chloroform,” “The Real Thing” and “SOS in Bel Air.” They all knew the lyrics. They all sang along. Loud.

One of my favorite parts of the concert was when the band played a mash-up of their electronica tracks, the official set list said “Sunskrupt!” a mix of “Love like a Sunset” from the "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" album and “Bankrupt!” from their current album. The screen during the "Bankrupt!" part had psychedelic black and white lines in step with the song’s syncopated drum beats, while “Love like a Sunset” had stage lights vertically panning at the audience and matching the song’s haunting piano notes. It oddly felt like a sunset, trippy and magical, one of those moments that will stay with you forever.

After 16 songs, a three song-encore featured an acoustic version of “Countdown,” with Mars singing in front of the stage, near the front row. After the song, you could hear the lucky fans in front, screaming, “I love you and thank you so much.” The crowd heard and cheered, sharing the same sentiments.

The highly danceable “If I Ever Feel Better” followed, which featured some parts of the Daft Punk remix near the end.

The show closed with “Rome” and fittingly, a prolonged extro of “Entertainment” with Mars going into the crowd to say hello to the rest of the people at the Gold area.

And with a shower of confetti, the show was over.

Verdict? They sound so unbelievable live. My very loud, unknown seatmate and I danced and sang out loud non-stop, together with the rest of the strangers, gladly sharing the same wonderful experience of music and Phoenix.

As Jewel Angeles, a fan. wrote of her Phoenix experience: “This high is gonna take a while to wear off.” -- By Joko Magalong

Review: 2 takes on Phoenix concert in Manila 2
Phoenix performs against a video backdrop of the Mayon Volcano. Photo by Jeeves de Veyra for

He said

Cult favorite French band Phoenix recently soared to unprecedented heights backed by the success of their fourth studio album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix."

Not only did it win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, it also propelled the French quartet into a frenzied rise to fame, which culminated when they headlined Coachella last year.

On Tuesday night, Filipino fans at the World Trade Center, Pasay City experienced a performance by a group very much at the top of their game, worthy of being named as one of the top live acts of recent years.

Phoenix, composed of Thomas Mars, Laurent Brancowitz, Deck D'Arcy and Christian Mazzalai, started the night off with the band's frenetic and aptly-titled track "Entertainment," the lead single off their 2013 album "Bankrupt."

It was then followed by similarly captivating tracks "Lasso" and "Lisztomania," which electrified the thousands in attendance at the sold-out concert.

For their part, the crowd showed their willingness to dance and sing along to the often enigmatic lyrics, which is both funny and infectious at the same time.

"For us it's the best compliment you can get. People singing along the lyrics. It's a rare thing when it comes to our music because our lyrics are very strange. It makes it even better," Mars told reporters in a press conference held before the concert.

Phoenix barely faltered with their arrangement of the set list, matching the dizzying combination of "Too Young" and "Girlfriend" with the trippy old favorite "Run Run Run," before erupting into a string of new hits "Trying To Be Cool," "Drakkar Noir" and "Chloroform."

Even the purely instrumental combination of "Bankrupt" and "Love Like A Sunset" didn't fail to excite the fans, as it was accompanied by a set of dazzling digital images of Paris streets and blinding lights.

But for such a high-octane, energy filled night, which saw the band belt out favorites "Armistice" and "1901," one of the highlights came in the form of a poignant ballad by guitarist Mazzalai and Mars.

In the most intimate moment of the night, Mars stood at the edge of the crowd and serenaded the exhausted but ecstatic fans with a stripped down, sweet and simple rendition of "Countdown."

The rest of the band then followed suit for the encore set to cap off the performance with some of their earliest hits "If I Ever Feel Better," "Funky Squaredance" and "Rome."

The night didn't end there, though. And as his band kept the beats going on stage, Mars surprised the lot by jumping over the barricades to push through his manic fans -- grabbing, pulling and desperately trying to take selfies with the Frenchman.

It was sort of a miracle that he made it all the way through the crowd and back to shout in a clearly exhausted voice: "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

The group then launched one last hurrah --a deafening blast of "Entertainment" reprise, to end the night in a loud, high note which will ring the ears of Filipino fans for a long time to come.

It would be premature to say that Phoenix will top the yearend lists of best live acts of 2014, but the band didn't just give a fun-filled night for their fans, the quartet has set a standard performance-wise. One couldn't help but admire and respond to the energy and dedication of the band to ensure that their first ever concert in the Philippines was a truly memorable one. -- By Vince Garcia