Phoenix / Holy Fuck Sound Academy, Toronto, ON December 5
Published Dec 07, 2009Saturday night is meant for hand pumping and fraternal writhing, and nothing inspires it like Parisian pop. With an armoury of feel-good songs - almost all single-worthy - and a stellar warm-up act in Holy Fuck, French six-piece Phoenix played a joyous and infectiously amiable Sound Academy show.
For Toronto's electronic combo extraordinaire, Holy Fuck, they thrive on the same principle that anchors many a great jazz band: the band never underestimate the power of a live rhythm section. Anchored by drummer Matt Schulz and bassist Matt McQuaid, the quartet played a frenetic, deranged and multifaceted opening set.
From demonic church keys to melodica-driven electro, Holy Fuck's raucous effort covered a lot of sonic ground, ultimately entrancing a reluctant crowd. Throughout, the aforementioned rhythm section kept things visceral, delivering stomping beats and funked up bass lines, while masterminds Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh roamed effects-driven freak-out territory. Lazer beam blips and ascending keys ensued, spiraling like the second chapter of Ulysses, but not like an undergraduate pedant.
With Phoenix's most recent effort, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the headliners perfected their all-inclusive shtick. Wrought live, songs like the Strokes-evoking "Armistice" (see the Albert Hammond-style guitar) and the disco-indebted "Fences" drew near-universal audience participation. Jam-band interlude, "Love Like a Sunset," built feverishly into a head-banging crescendo and "Rome" was led by some fun-filled maraca. Older material fared almost as well, especially the U2-aping "Long Distance Call."
Phoenix's four-record canon teems with soundtrack-ready fare and this show was a veritable best-of. Bookended by recently ubiquitous singles, "Lisztomania" and "1901," respectively, the gig was a shiny-pop feast that climaxed with singer Thomas Mars climbing onto a bar, swimming through the crowd, and inviting the entire venue up on stage. Incidentally, there's something inherently adorable about French accents.