Phoenix Deliver Lollapalooza Sized Performance At Aragon Ballroom

By Jim Easterhouse

“Headline from this day on,” the opening verse of “Entertainment” by Phoenix, sounded dated three songs into the French ensemble’s set at the Aragon Ballroom. Four years since the song was released, the phrase doesn’t sound incoherent or ineffective, but simply marks a stage in which Phoenix wasn’t an indisputable headliner, or for that matter, had to make a case for themselves.

Although they certainly weren’t far off par by several festival standards, as they were listed fifth on the 2013 Lollapalooza lineup behind The Cure, Mumford & Sons, The Killers, and Nine Inch Nails, the uptempo pace Phoenix maintained on Monday night amidst a slew of adrenaline inducing, contemporary indie rock classics made it difficult to justify a time in the last near decade in which the band didn’t garner complete first-class acknowledgement. The first verse in “Entertainment” was a statement, one which has become as valid since 2013 as the band’s spot on the pillar of modern rock bands.

This notion was conversationally addressed by Ryan Arnold on Monday afternoon in XRT’s BlueCross BlueShield Performance Stage. Seated around a rectangular table with a cheetah print sheet and microphones packed from France, Phoenix graciously thanked Ryan Arnold for his words after the DJ admired that the band had stopped by XRT to perform three tracks after headlining Field Trip in Toronto and Governor’s Ball in New York within the past two days.

Phoenix had a way with maximizing space at both performances at the BlueCross BlueShield Performance Stage and the Aragon Ballroom on Monday. Showcasing “J-Boy” and “Ti Amo” off their upcoming record, Ti Amo, due Friday, along with the still omnipresent “1901,” Phoenix created a sound that seemed to exceed the intimate space on the ninth floor of Two Prudential Plaza. Even with a drum machine in lieu of a live drummer, the band’s aesthetic captivated attendees and maintained a sense of awe throughout the pleasurable set and subsequent standing ovation.

Phoenix followed suit at the Aragon Ballroom, receiving roars of approval from the capacity crowd throughout their 18-song set list. The band’s usual formula of quick riffs, quaking bass, coupled with one of the most energizing live drummers made even the Aragon Ballroom seem small. Traditionally moderately paced songs like “Girlfriend” and “Fences” off 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix still abided by the pace topped by quicker tracks like “J-Boy” and “Lasso.”

Cold blues, pinks, yellows, a pumpkin orange base during “Sunskrupt!” and additional glittery hues gorgeously paired with a glass foundation on the foreground and backdrop of the Aragon Ballroom stage. The arrangement continually accentuated the presence of Phoenix by seemingly extending the space they performed on. This tactic helped continue to facilitate the feeling of a festival headlining set indoors, fostering a concert capable of encapsulating a crowd the size of a headlining set at Lollapalooza, let alone one of the largest indoor venues in Chicago. For a band that could have reasonably headlined Lollapalooza again this August, both indoor performances felt like a unique treat.

Almost four years after Phoenix capped off their Lollapalooza performance in 2013 with Thomas Mars crowd surfing through the sea of Grant Park’s north side, the lead singer did so again at the Aragon Ballroom on Monday night, repeatedly thanking fans as he wafted toward the sound board in the center of the concourse. Nearly two decades into the storied career of Phoenix, the band’s gratitude is as appreciated as the stunning concerts they repeatedly deliver.

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