Phoenix + The Vegan Leather @ Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow, 26/03/18

photos + words by josh adams (@jxshadams)

Phoenix are in the somewhat unenviable position of being a Big Band Who Make Big Records And Play Big Concerts whilst bafflingly not being a household name. If one takes a brief glance at their coveted list of accolades, it reads like a checklist for a modern rock group to be a dominating world force: hit singles, top 40 albums, sold out shows at Madison Square Garden and headlining appearances at Primavera and Coachella. So it was puzzling to most, if not all, in attendance as to why this seemingly unstoppable powerhouse of pop could barely fill three quarters of Glasgow’s iconic Barrowlands. This, coupled with rumours that frontman Thomas Mars‘ voice had been strained with illness, led to a sense of anticipation and worry, with the Barras crowd eager to see if the French quartet could pull it out of the proverbial bag.

First up, though, came support from the ever-reliable Vegan Leather. The Paisley dance-rock group, elegantly dressed and bursting with tunes, took to the stage with a modest sized crowd and ended with almost everyone who had bought a ticket bouncing up and down to their epic, fiery closer, This House (minus one bald man who looked like he’d stumbled in expecting a Wolftones gig). In between, they fused disco, pop, rock, house and new wave like their lives depended on it with recent singles such as I Take American, Shake It and Eyes, never giving the Glasgow crowd a moment to catch their breath, despite the costume changes. Nothing but praise has been heaped upon the band, and there’s a good reason for it – check them out now if you haven’t already, before they hit the big time.

With the Barrowlands considerably warmed up, Phoenix capitalised on the liveliness built up and came on stage shortly after to Prince’s ‘Controversy‘, offering a taste of the playful grooves the band would prove they had mastered on stage throughout the night. Stripped of their elaborate lights-and-mirrors show, it was down to their sheer stage presence, and, most crucially, the songs to do the talking, and boy, did they deliver. Kicking things off with last year’s lead single, J-Boy, its twinkling synthesisers, airy melodies and stomping beats recalling the best of 80s pop and hip hop, the four piece, bolstered by long-time touring drummer Thomas Hedlund and an auxiliary keyboard player, seemed to burst into technicolour before the audience’s very eyes in their stereotypical oh-so-nonchalant French cool. From there, came an opening salvo of Phoenix’s brightest and best songs: Lasso, Entertainment, Listzomania, and Trying To Be Cool all rolled off with effortless ease, almost stunning the crowd into stillness – it was disconcerting to see a Glasgow crowd as calm as they were during this part of the set.

However, with such an astonishing start to a gig, naturally came a dip in energy levels with some deeper cuts from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and latest LP, Ti Amo. Just when you thought the crowd’s patience was beginning to wain with the instrumental medley of Sunskrupt! though, the band roared into life once more with the title track from Ti Amo, and began dishing out their groovier anthems once more, this time with a less dazzled crowd backing them every dance move of the way.  It should be admired at this point the versatility of Phoenix’s instrumentalists, who regularly swapped between two or more instruments mid-song without breaking a sweat or ruining the flow of a song or a set – it was clear to see this was a group refined and rehearsed, but also having fun as they jumped around with grins on their faces.

After leaving the stage with Rome, Mars and guitarist Christian Mazzalai returned to the stage as a duo to perform stripped down versions of Countdown and Goodbye Soleil, with a hushed intimacy made all the more fragile by Mars’s insistence on sitting right in front of the barrier, staring right into the eyes of the crowd. Despite his humble admissions that his voice wasn’t up to its usual standard, nobody in the Barrowlands could have told you he was having an off-night at all – he was in complete control of his vocal chords, with no bum notes or tickley coughs in sight. By this point, the Francs had completely won over the audience, and had the support they previously did not have to indulge themselves in a few more deep cuts, and a rallying rendition of Happy Birthday to bassist Deck D’Arcy.

All good things must come to an end though, and Phoenix went out in style with the buzzing bass and chiming guitars of their calling card 1901 ringing out through the venue sending the crowd into overdrive, voices singing in unison and bodies dancing the night out. But the real surprise came when we all thought it was over, but the band clearly weren’t ready to leave – a reprise of Ti Amo that steadily kept growing and growing, threatening to burst into its disco-punk climax at any moment, as Mars clambered over the audience to the sound desk and back again, downing pints as he went. Before he could rejoin his bandmates though, he was dropped right in front of me, and a huge mosh pit opened up around him, ready to swallow him whole. Mars turned back to the stage, shrugged his shoulders with a smile on his face, and the rest of the band let rip as the Barrowland crowd rushed him, dancing as we went. A surreal end to an amazing night, proving that Phoenix have more fight left in them than we might have thought.

The Gid Time Gig Guide: March 2018

If you didn’t already know, us folk here at BLINKCLYRO love gigs and, considering you’re reading this, we’re sure you do too. Having compiled concert listings for The Student Advertiser, which often tallies up over 200+ gigs in Glasgow & Edinburgh alone, we thought that to help you guys decide, as well as inform you of events taking part in other areas, we’d come up with this handy wee guide that’ll shine a light on events that you’ll be wanting to end up at barrier for.

Note: We don’t take requests for this series so don’t get in touch regarding this.

SAMAs Paisley Takeover @ Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley – 2-3/3/18

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A jam-packed double event, the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMAs) aren’t just organising some great panels and workshops but also making sure they don’t slack in the gig department: it wouldn’t be a definitive Paisley gig without disco rockers The Vegan Leather and shoegazers SWAY playing who will no doubt provide some stunning sets, in addition to Glasgow’s very own Pronto Mama making this takeover too tempting to turn down.

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CLUB DECODE PRESENTS: PINK @ Nice N Sleazy, Glasgow – 5/3/18

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It’s always exciting to see fellow up and coming sites make the jump into the live music realm and CLUB DECODE are doing that again, after more than a year of waiting, with two events in March: GLITTER will take place on the 22nd but for chronological order’s sake we’re focussing on PINK here though both nights are set to put the spotlight on some of Scotland’s finest indie music. It’ll be a night that will stand out, not just for how bright and glittery the encouraged attire will be.

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Ayr Rise Festival @ Fury’s, Ayr – 24/3/1827540207_105050713635574_4334396787991975203_n.jpg

We’ve been holding out for a local music festival to come around and help the Ayrshire music scene. Welcome to the stage Ayr Rise Festival, a new (hopefully annual) event that will be showcasing some promising talent, some of which we’ve already covered such as The Mawb and Atlas Run. Running from 3-10pm, it’ll be a tight day that we hope will stay around for years to come.

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Young Fathers @ Barrowlands, Glasgow – 24/3/18

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If for some reason you can’t make it to Ayr on the 24th (who can blame with you how horrible the weather is) then Young Fathers sold-out show should be your next priority if you can manage to find someone that isn’t a tout selling a ticket. This unique hip-hop, pop outfit is, for this site’s money anyway, the best band Scotland has to offer at the moment and with their third LP building up to be their magnum opus, you owe it to yourself to get your arse to this show. 

SOLD OUT

Phoenix w/ The Vegan Leather @ Barrowlands – 26/3/18

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Before the support was announced for this gig, we were already pretty hyped for it: despite not covering their latest album, we can confirm that Phoenix are even better than they were back in their popularity boom back in 2009. With The Vegan Leather (oh hi again) brought along to get the crowd hyped, this will no doubt be a gig that you can undoubtedly enjoy but where, in a year or so, you can say you saw the Paisley act really breakout. 

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Track Review: Phoenix – Ti Amo

By Karsten Walter (@karseatheadrest)

French indie-pop superstars Phoenix are releasing their new album Ti Amo next month, and have debuted its title track, alongside the previously released glitchy, upbeat J-Boy. The track gives fans a real eye-opener into the return of their renowned sound.

Ti Amo opens with a retro drum loop intro, that lays under the track throughout, eventually drowned out by the live drums, but still returning to hold the piece together. It’s a successful attempt from Phoenix to replicate the lively disco vibe that they’ve thrived off of for five albums now. If you’ve ever had a desire to hear Thomas Mars repeatedly tell you he loves you, then you’ve come to the right place with this track.  As the band declared when releasing the track on their Facebook page, “Ti Amo” is a romantic song about the tragedy of unreciprocated love and desire. Their description fits it perfectly – it’s all about having fun, enjoying the little things in life (sipping Prosecco whilst listening to the Buzzcocks, seemingly) and loving each other. In various languages.

The addictive and pulsing chorus is irresistible as much as it is repetitive. The playful lyrics, the outgoing instrumental, it all feels like the soundtrack to a party with your best friends, and you won’t be judged to tap your feet to it, or be taken in by its exotic feel. It makes complete sense as to why the band described this album as a recall to the summer and Italian discos of their past.

While the track isn’t instinctively political or aiming to tackle any moral issues, it could easily be perceived that way.  Phoenix aren’t exactly a radical band, but when they also entitled their announcement of the track’s release with the words “100% lover – 0% violence”, you have to think there might be a possibility the track is being released for a statement of some form. It may be to support and promote a form of unity, love, and multiculturalism among us with the various languages in it.

Maybe Thomas Mars is just really interested in furthering his modern language skills. Whatever the end message, the track oozes romance, positivity, and fun – and that’s probably the perfect way to describe this preview of their upcoming album. 

7/10


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Track Review: J-Boy by Phoenix

By Nicola Roy (@circaslaves)

Following the news of a 33-date world tour (their first live shows in three years) and a number of snippets from songs off their new album Ti Amo, Phoenix have returned boasting a more polished electronic dance sound with their new track, J-BoyThe French indie-pop outfit have not released an album since their spring 2013 release of Bankrupt!, a heavily synth-driven album which was criticised to an extent for being too repetitive and exhausting, especially after the huge success of their previous album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix– impeccably crafted bursts of electro-pop.

J-Boy sees Phoenix fine-tuning their sound to something that at first appears to be chaotic but delves into a shimmering neon-lit journey of toe-tapping synths and a heavy, consistent beat. Elements of the previous album can be heard, but with a more mature and brilliant edge. Vocalist Thomas Mars is the driving force of this song, much more so than in most of the tracks on Bankrupt!, and a stylish selection of lyrics such as being ‘higher than a disco ball’ and ‘kamikazes in a hopeless world’, shows that their songwriting talents haven’t diminished despite their 4-year long hiatus.

The band themselves have described their upcoming album as ‘an album about simple pure emotions; love, desire, lust, and innocence’. They have also linked it to their European roots, branding it a ‘fantasised version of Italy’. This sleek lead single is merely a taste of what Phoenix will no doubt have to offer on Ti Amo. The album will be available on June 9th, and if this single is anything to go by, it will boast a radiant and new sound more than worth the wait.

8/10


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