Show Review: Phoenix & The Soft Pack at The Warfield Theater, 9/17/09

by Gordon Elgart on September 18, 2009

Thomas Mars feels at home among his fans

Thomas Mars feels at home among his fans

Phoenix is something of a rarity these days:  they’re a band that can sell out the Warfield.  It’s been a pretty slow-selling concert season here in San Francisco, and a lot shows are going undersold in many venues around town.  Some venues are offering season passes, some are offering their shows for half price on sites such as Goldstar, and others are simply papering the house.  None of that was necessary for Phoenix, who are riding the wave of their extremely well received album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.

The opening band was The Soft Pack, who are formerly known as The Muslims.  This is a fact that is in all of their press materials, and it’s unfortunate that they will need to keep saying this.  It might not be for that long because the crowd reaction was non-existent.  From my viewpoint on the balcony, I could see that there were less than ten people showing any movement during even their bounciest numbers.   I’m not sure why they failed with the audience; they sound pretty good.  I think they don’t really offer anything that hasn’t been heard before.  They’re a competent dance-leaning rock band, and that’s probably not enough anymore.

They finished at 8:30 or so, and the venue was still about half full.  This was a late arriving crowd, and I was a little concerned what that might do to the energy in the place.  I needn’t worry because as soon as Phoenix came out at 9:00 and started up “Lisztomania,” the opening track from their newest album, most of the crowd was on their feet dancing.  The band and crowd started a little slow, and about 30 minutes in, I’d say it was about 30% mega-excited, 30% excited, 30% happy to be there, and 10% outside at the bar drinking.  Then they played “Love Like a Sunset,” which I’ve mentioned before is the band’s best track.  Lead singer Thomas Mars lay down on his back at the front of the stage as the rest of the band played the extended instrumental that makes up the most of this track, and after the whole song finished, the crowd was 90%  mega-excited and 10% still outside at the bar drinking.  What’s wrong with these people?

The rest of the main set, which went to about 10:00, was a screaming dancing sensation, and both the crowd and band seemed to feed on each other’s energy.  This was the Phoenix people were excited to see, and finally during the encore, everyone came inside from the bar.  The show closed with “1901,” and by the end of this song, everyone in the theater was spent.

This was a pretty short show for a band with a decent sized catalog, but I doubt anyone went home disappointed, except possibly the people who arrived at 10:15 and asked me what time the band went on.  I feel bad for them, but I can assure them (and you) that Phoenix will be back soon, and you shouldn’t miss it.

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Thanks to Flickr user jaredhanson for sharing the photo.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joby September 18, 2009 at 10:40 pm

What kind of show ends at 10? Does that have something to do with the slow sales? At this writing, it’s 10:40 and the Giants are still playing. A rock show should run later than a baseball game.

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