With just a brief introduction, courtesy of frontman Thomas Mars (en français, of course), Phoenix kicked off their Live On Letterman performance last night (April 30).

This time around, however, the show’s name was a bit misleading, since it had been moved nearly 10 blocks away from David Letterman’s usual haunts at the Ed Sullivan Theater to the antiquely posh Hudson Theatre. Filled to the brim with fans — most coming straight from work, still donning their business-casual digs — the place perked up with the first few twinkling notes of “Entertainment,” the band’s latest single off new album Bankrupt!.

Watch the full webcast of Phoenix Live On Letterman

All four members — Mars, Laurent Brancowitz, Deck d’Arcy and Christian Mazzalai — stood in a line at the front of the stage, forming an almost impenetrable wall as they raged through songs from the new record. But even though their stance was uniform, the French band was anything but stiff. On nearly every song, Brancowitz and d’Arcy switched off between guitar and keyboards, sometimes playing both at the same time. Mars made singing look easy as he sweetly strained for the high notes on “The Real Thing” and sassily crooning the most quotable lyric that is definitely worthy of its own t-shirt (“Mint julep testosterone”) on “Trying To Be Cool.”

103319 d04721 Phoenix Lights Up Live On Letterman With New Album Highlights

Jeffrey Neira/CBS.com

The band looked like they were having fun up there, too. During their 2009 hit “Lisztomania,” Mars even playfully hip-checked Brancowitz, who managed to flawlessly play the guitar while trying not to fall off the edge of the stage.

Of course, it was the crowd, which included labelmate Marcus Mumford, that had the most fun, impressively singing along with every new song including the slick jam “Chloroform” and the synth-heavy “Don’t.” Even more impressive given the fact that these fans managed to memorize every word on Bankrupt!, in a week’s time.

103319 d05871 Phoenix Lights Up Live On Letterman With New Album Highlights

Jeffrey Neira/ CBS.com

Phoenix updated their more recognizable hits, adding an extra verse to “Lasso” and seamlessly mashing up Lost In Translation track “Too Young” (from their 2000 debut, United) with Wolfgang’s “Girlfriend.”  d’Arcy rocked out so hard on this one that when he went to grab his bass — smartly swung around his shoulder for easy access — he knocked his microphone over, sending the stage techs scrambling to get everything back in its rightful place.

103319 d05281 Phoenix Lights Up Live On Letterman With New Album Highlights

Jeffrey Neira/ CBS.com

While “1901” was a flurry of lights that got the pit dancing, it was “Rome” off Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that perfectly closed out the night. The highlight of the guitar heavy track was Mars’ nearly a cappella solo. As he sang, “And together getting lonely/I thought I couldn’t do this without you,” one lone fan decided to start clapping, but once this guy realized he was the only one accompanying Mars, he quickly put his hands down. When Mars finished his solo, he stood up on the speakers lining the front of the stage and initiated his own round of clapping, telling the lone percussionist, “Now you can clap.”

But being the nice guy he is, Mars quickly amended his instructions: “You can clap anytime.”

Phoenix’s Live on Letterman setlist, 4/30/2013:

  1. Entertainment
  2. Lasso
  3. Lisztomania
  4. The Real Thing
  5. Too Young/ Girlfriend
  6. Trying To Be Cool
  7. Chloroform
  8. Armistice
  9. 1901
  10. Don’t
  11. Rome

Watch the full webcast of Phoenix Live On Letterman


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