I’m not going to lie, dear Reader, I am totally still hungover from what can only be described as ‘a quite large session’ on Saturday and the last thing I want to do is drag myself off the couch and trek to the Academy to see Phoenix. And I love Phoenix. Like, full on man-crush on Thomas Mars love Phoenix. But the thought of being upright for a couple of hours has made my head spin. After a brief chat with myself, and a small red wine hair of the dog, I heroically left my house so that I could tell you what we all already know: Phoenix are, and always will be, incredible live.

The French band were somewhat late bloomers, as it wasn’t until their 4th album, the masterpiece Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, was released that they really got any attention outside of their homeland. The impossibly chic band broke through in a big way, and it was all down to their impeccable synth-pop and natural Gallic cool. Some people called them ‘the French Strokes’ as an easy label/lazy reference point, but there was one big difference between them and their sulky New York counterparts: Phoenix were actually fun and looked like they were enjoying themselves. Thomas Mars was the perfect balance between cool, untouchable French dude, and brilliant showy frontman, and the band around him knew what to do with a couple of guitars and some synths. Around WAP, they were unbeatable, and their live shows ever since have been electric.

Tonight they are no different. In fact, I think it might be the best I’ve ever seen them. They do not fuck around, straight into an almost perfect run of ‘J-Boy’ from their latest album Ti Amo, all k-pop and desire, then a holy trinity of ‘Lasso’, ‘Entertainment’ and the ‘I cant quite believe they’re playing this so early in the set’ ‘Lisztomania’. It’s an extraordinary opening salvo, and once ‘Lisztomania’ has kicked in, they have the crowd in the palm of their hands. Sunday night gigs can be a subdued affair crowd-wise, but not so tonight; everyone is fully up for it and belts every word of it back at band, hands and pints aloft, people hugging and jumping, filled with the infectious joy of Phoenix. After ‘Lisztomania’, Mars stares out at the crowd, looking slightly in disbelief at the reception they’re getting, drinking it in with a huge grin on his face, his band mates thrilled at either side of him. Manchester obviously love Phoenix, and they love us back.

And the lights, sweet Jesus the lights! Everything they do is perfectly co-ordinated to the song, be it a drum fill, a bass twang, a guitar solo, it’s a beautiful, dazzling set up. It’s exemplified by a tiny guitar break, when the whole stage is plunged momentarily into the dark and one spotlight falls on guitarist Laurent Brancowitz to play four perfect solo notes before the whole stage lights up again and the song continues – it’s a stunning little detail that fills me with happiness. ‘Role Model’ sees the stage bathed in blood red, moody AF, and the absolutely astonishing ‘Love Like A Sunset Parts 1 & 2’ are lit by stark white beams that shimmer and shift with dry ice, the drummer pounding away at his skins for all his worth, the guitarists combining to make the dirtiest noise of the evening, the bass rumbling through the entire venue. And then Mars returns, his perfect Hawaiian print shirt tucked neatly into his skinny chinos, and sweetly sings the coda, it’s incredible.

We get ‘Ti Amo’, ‘Girlfriend’, and an euphoric ‘Rome’ before the band depart, beaming from ear to ear at the hands aloft ovation they are getting. Of course, we’re not done, as Mars and Brancowitz return to play a stunning pared back rendition of ‘Countdown (Sick For the Big Sun)’, Mars stood spotlighted at the barriers, singing directly into the adoring crowd, before they sign off with ‘Telefono’ (complete with actual red telephone prop that Mars non-ironically sings into), and a barnstorming ‘1901’ which is completely electric. Just as we think they’ve done, Mars climbs into the middle of the crowd and asks to be held aloft, many hands propping up his legs as he stands triumphantly atop of the audience, accepting drinks, conducting the crowd in a mass pogo to the thumping electro-pop instrumental the band are playing behind him, looking like the coolest motherfucker alive, before crowd surfing back to the stage and departing. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you close a show. I’m grinning like a kid at Christmas, my hangover long forgotten, the cure a night of exceptional synth-pop by the coolest dudes around. They haven’t even risen from the ashes; they’ve always soared above the rest.

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