Bliss. Pure freakin' bliss. That's right - I fell asleep completely content to the twinkling lights of downtown Austin and woke up dancing in the shower this morning. For real :-) Phoenix just has that effect on me. It's an extreme euphoria, and - as one of my friends said after the show last night - it's almost post-orgasmic.
These guys just have it...all. The talent. I mean, REAL talent. They are both a studio band and phenomenal live performers, which is no easy feat. And, on a personal level, they are the most genuine and humble musicians - something that I discovered when I was fortunate enough to spend a handful of minutes with them the last time they were in Austin back in December for a show at La Zona Rosa. Taking the time to snap photos with fans and sign memorabilia after a special acoustic performance of "Lisztomania," Phoenix's generosity is just unquestionable. They really do truly appreciate their fans, and they could've let all this success - the Grammy, Cadillac commercial, sold out tours, headlining festival slots, etc. - go to their heads. But they haven't, and I seriously hope they don't.
They're just down-to-earth, which I would think has something to do with the time it's taken them to become the explosive force they are now on the live music circuit, having released their first studio album, United, in 2000. They had the persistence and passion and are definitely no one-hit wonder - and they have an amazing catalog to substantiate that. Much of their fanbase is only familiar with their latest album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (2009), which won Best Alternative Music Album at this year's Grammy Awards, but I would highly recommend checking out their other studio releases. In addition to United, there's Alphabetical (2004) and It's Never Been Like That (2006), along with Live! Thirty Days Ago, a live album that came out only a month after a 150-date tour in 2005.
The Stubb's show in Austin was their third-to-last stop on their current tour. And they know how to give Austin love, as Austin knows how to love them back. From what I hear, the pre-sale for this show sold out in less than a minute (how I scored my ticket...yesss!), and the regular on-sale sold out in less than five - and what a sweet ticket it was. Stubb's is probably my favorite venue in Austin. It just has such appeal. Not only is it a super cool and intimate amphitheatre (by amphitheatre standards anyway - it holds less than 3k), but it's also right smack-dab in downtown Austin. Honestly, it's hard for me to say which show I enjoyed more - Stubb's vs. La Zona Rosa - because I typically do prefer the smaller indoor venues for overall experience and acoustics. But I really do love Stubb's. It's just sexy. And the weather was perfect last night.
Thomas Mars (vocals) seems to share my sentiments. Soon after Phoenix took the stage last night, he said, "Stubb's...finally."
And they rocked it. There was so much energy in that crowd, and it was full of people that reallyreally wanted to be there, making for such a feel-good experience. Music truly does have the power to unite us all, and that's what happened last night. And Mars, per his usual performance antics, made his way into the crowd several times, which people - me included - really do love. It makes him one of us, and that's where the generosity factor comes back into play. Instead of making himself "untouchable," he does the polar opposite. At the La Zona Rosa show, he brushed right past me on his way back to the stage (I caught it on camera!), which really does make the experience that much more special.
The formulaic nature of their live show is a welcome familiarity, too. Being a fan of many "jambands," I'm accustomed to each show I see being a very different experience - and when I do a string of shows, there usually isn't one song played twice. Fifteen of seventeen songs last night were repeats from last time with "Love For Granted" and "Playground Love" (Air cover) being the only newbies. And, actually, the first three songs of the show were played in the exact same order as the last go 'round. I would normally find that to make for a stale show, but not with Phoenix. I would seriously drive to Houston tonight to see them again because I don't feel like I got enough :-)
I especially love how Phoenix always seems to encore about twelve times (ok, maybe it's not really that many encores - last night it was four songs between three separate appearances on-stage). And I think I've figured out why they do this. They have to let you down slowly because you really don't want the show - or the overall experience - to come to an end. But when the notes to "1901" begin to fill the air, you know things are drawing to a close.
They went out like bonafide rockstars. This was definitely the best show I've seen so far this year, and I see A LOT of live music. Come to think of it, I ranked their La Zona show as my numero uno of '09, and quite possibly the best show I've ever seen. So let's do the math. If I can't decide which show between La Zona and Stubb's I like best, that means that last night's show may, quite possibly, be the best live performance I've ever seen in my whole life. Awe-inspiring. Thank you, Phoenix.
P.S. I can't wait to see Roxwel's live footage of the first three songs. Coming soon...woohoo!
Setlist: Lisztomania, Long Distance Call, Lasso, Consolation Prizes, Fences, Girlfriend, Armistice, Love Like a Sunset - Pt. 1, Love Like a Sunset - Pt. 2, Run Run Run, Napoleon Says, Rome, Funky Squaredance