Phoenix at Leeds 2010
It felt a little strange having a band like Phoenix follow Mumford & Sons. Despite the French quartet having been around for a few years now, it was only since the arrival of Grammy Award-winning album "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" last year that people have started to pay that much attention to them. And despite the album being critically swooned over, you still don't really hear that much about them. They're not on the lips of every journalist, recommended by your mate or requested all that much when you're out dancing. So to have one of the most understated bands of the year follow one of the most hyped, was a strange sensation. The Mumford crowd shrank by about 60% (which meant that the tent was still fairly packed out, mind you) and then Phoenix came on, confident and refined... to put on one of my favourite sets of the whole weekend. There, I'm going to break the silence...
Phoenix, you were amazing.
With the darkness creeping in, they were able to give one of the most visually stunning sets the NME/Radio 1 tent had seen. Strips of rainbow lighting, bright flashes through smoke to add drama and swirling projections made for some gorgeous theatrical silhouettes, providing the perfect illustration of the eclectic indie electronica of their music. They are a band that play impeccably live, their album being brought to life with boundless fervour and passion. 'Lisztomania' was a flying start to the set, the positive bouncing beat setting the pace for people to get involved straight away with dancing. A performance of latest single 'Lasso' followed, with its catchy rolling rhythm perfect for the ripe festival atmosphere.
A nod towards Phoenix's older material was given in renditions of 'Long Distance Call' and 'Consolation Prizes', energetically poppy little numbers with some shimmy-worthy guitar chords and light, funky drum beats. The lack of any acknowledgement to their material pre-2006 really highlights the impact that the latest album has had on their profile within the alternative music scene.
The defining moment of the set was an utterly breathtaking interlude in the shape of back-to-back performances of predominantly instrumental 'Love Like A Sunset Part I' and Love Like A Sunset Part II'. The ambrosial soaring layers of melody in the soundscape being created grew and spread its magic throughout the entire tent. The truly stunning electronic bubble of sound was glorious to witness live, the light and shade in the music creating an engulfing sensory experience. During the instrumental 'Part I', vocalist Thomas Mars did exactly what I wanted to do and lay himself down, eyes closed, hands rested on chest, letting the sound wash all over him. Of course it was a bit different for him, being on stage and all, but he made himself very comfy by resting his head on an amp.
Recent hit '1901' wrapped up an exceptional set, providing one last opportunity to get the crowd moving. There was a palpable feeling of elation as they left the stage, as everyone in that tent knew that they had just experienced something really rather special.
Phoenix provided a perfect penultimate closing note for a fantastic weekend.