Phoenix Live in Manila - Four Days Since

January 26, 2014


...And Entertainment is still playing on loop in my head, interspersed with Chloroform; and Bourgeois, which they didn’t play, but no matter, because they played Consolation Prizes, SOS in Bel Air, Armistice and of course, Lasso.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. We should start with how my good friend and concert buddy Monica told me there would be no front act—it was “straight Phoenix”. So that Tuesday, we hustled. Mon and I took a cab, then the train, then a cab again, with a travel time of two hours. Look, we said, look how much we love you.

The venue was like a prom: a medium-sized hall with a stage and a large number of white cloth-covered Monobloc chairs. I guess you couldn’t really expect anyone to sit on those chairs because once the show got going, the crowd either surged to the stage or stood on the chairs for a better view. Those of us of petite size chose the latter. Midway through the fourth (or fifth) song, the bouncers shooed us off, collected the chairs and stacked them to one side. This egalitarian measure, while surprising, left the crowd with more room to dance.

The crowd: office types, people dressed as hipsters, the young and youthful. Phoenix attracted pretty happy people.

So, Entertainment. The lights went on. The first notes were played: live, melodic, heady and real. Shit just got real. Mon and I exchanged OMGs while the music swirled around us, bringing with it a sense of disbelief. Whatever comfort I got from listening to them on earphones was multiplied tenfold. I felt myself tearing up.



Remember listening to Girlfriend on the radio for the first time and thinking, this a really good song. And after looking them up, this is a really cool band.

Remember what it is to watch a great band live, to feel the drums in your chest throbbing a newer, stronger heartbeat.



Imagine dancing like a fan.



Thomas sang like the record. It’s silly how many times I said Oh my God, I love this song! every time they struck up a new tune.


One song I never expected them to play was Love Like A Sunset. (I didn’t look at the setlist.) A song that’s instrumental almost all the way through, it was presented with a short video that made driving in Paris seem like a glamorously artsy thing, an urgent dream for the travel-hungry. And that finish, with the band bathed in warm orange light—Phoenix’s time in the sun, as it were; a moment of glory, a perfectly imprinted memory.



Then they waved to the audience and the lights dimmed. The show was over and it was too short. Or was it? We called out for more and of course they returned, first with a soft rendition of Countdown, then going full force with a new set. The audience was more charged than ever, jumping waving dancing singing put my name on your list / SOS in Bel Air!




And during the finale...

It all happened so fast. Thomas jumped the rail right beside where we were standing. Head lowered, slouching, as far from cocky as you can get. People started swarming towards him, tentatively at first, then at a rush. In a totally cinematic moment, I watched as Mon and I were separated by, not a sea, but more like a river of people. After a second I recovered my wits, reached out and touched the frontman’s shoulder like a good devotee. When I got back to where Mon was standing, she looked as dazed as I felt. She’d also approached him and, at a loss for words, screamed hysterically in his face. (Haha.)

I won’t pretend to have understood everything that happened. I won’t even pretend to understand all of their intriguing and original lyrics. All I know is when I closed my eyes, the music was as perfect as I could imagine. I think Thomas crowdsurfed at the end, but I couldn’t see. Entertainment, their first and last song, built up to a truly epic finish as he made his way back to the stage. Then there was confetti, a last goodbye, and the show was over. Mon and I stood around for a few more minutes, after which we travelled back and retreated to a late dinner of cheeseburger and fries as we gushed over everything.

One thing we agreed on was this: they didn’t feel like rockstars. Maybe it was the size of the venue, the minimal visuals or the happy crowd, but it was, to use Mon’s word, homey, as if everyone had an intimate, personal relationship with the music. And maybe we did. Phoenix is, after all, all about the music, and their songs, while cryptic, are made of pure heart. They’re not going for grandeur and they’re not divas. I also think, now, that they appear to be introvert-friendly. It’s the only way I can personally describe their calm, warm demeanor onstage and the artistic sincerity in their melodies. I had loved their music, but the concert made me fall in love with the band. Every time Laurent smiled, I was charmed.

When I got home, I saw that I was covered in glitter, summing up all that was good about that night.

*

It’s no exaggeration that I’ve found it difficult to focus on work since Tuesday. My head’s been higher up in the clouds than usual, keeping the dream factory oiled and running with thoughts of following Phoenix around the world and eloping with the band. The feeling remains. But for now, it’s back to earphones, knowing that it’s only a matter of time until somewhere, somehow, I see them again.


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