It’s been over three years since French indie-pop maestros Phoenix last graced a stage in Washington, DC, and eight years since they ruled the indie dance charts with “1901” and “Lisztomania.” And so a booking at DC’s new 6,000-capacity club The Anthem on the venue’s first full week open may have seemed ambitious. But the their latest album, Ti Amo, released in June, is a significant return to form after the somewhat more experimental Bankrupt!, and tracks like lead single “J-Boy” show a band that still knows how to write a pop hook. To the fans who crowded the venue to dance away their Monday evening, that was more than enough.
In fact, the band led off the show with “J-Boy,” and a nearly even split of tracks from Ti Amo and their breakout album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix made up most of the night. Through songs like “Lasso” and “Lovelife,” “Girlfriend” and “Ti Amo,” singer Thomas Mars danced across the stage as his bandmates laid down flawless renditions of the songs. The stage design itself featured prominently, as a tilted mirror behind the band showed an overhead view of the action, along with various projected images. The unusual view this presented made for a compelling visual aspect to go along with the music. The show played well to the strengths of the venue as it gave even those far in the back something to see, but did suffer from occasional sound mix issues in which the synth leads drowned everything else out. Still, it wasn't enough to kill the pure energy which pervaded the room.
The band did play the two most popular, danceable songs from Bankrupt! – “Entertainment” and “Trying to Be Cool” – early on in the night, but after that the record didn’t make another appearance. More notable for the long-time fans, they also broke out several songs from before they hit mainstream popularity, including “Rally” and “Long Distance Call” from 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That, and a medley of two tracks from their 2000 debut United, “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Funky Squaredance.”
After a 16-song set, the band returned for a long encore, playing three more new songs, “Goodbye Soleil,” “Telefono,” and “Flor di Latte,” before lighting the dance floor up one last time with “1901.” The band closed with another instrumental rendition of “Ti Amo” (known on the setlits as “Ti Amo Di Piu”), while Mars crowd surfed his way across the venue.
Long Island glam rockers The Lemon Twigs opened the show with an energetic set featuring songs from their latest EP Brothers of Destruction as well as their debut album, Do Hollywood.