The crowd didn't seem to mind Phoenix's simple and straight-ahead approach during its 6:45 p.m. set in the Bison Tent at Mile High Music Festival.
The Paris-based band have built a loyal commercial following in the United States during the past year sticking to the basics. It's an approach that features driving 2/4 and 4/4 beats, minimal musical ornamentation and pleading, emotive vocals from Thomas Mars.
The crowds at Mile High responded in impressive numbers to the outfit's insistence on minimalism. The Bison Tent filled to the brim within minutes of the band taking the stage, and eager fans danced and sang along from tight spots in the between the tent's edges and the chain link fence marking off the boundary of the venue.
The group stuck to familiar songs, offering a comprehensive selection of last year's Wolfganag Amadeus Phoenix. The band's year of touring has made its live performance of the tune well honed and tight -- songs like "1901" benefited from well executed accents and passionate vocal lines from Mars, as well as resonant guitar lines from Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai. The formula seemed a bit familiar after the first five or six songs; the band definitely revels in a specific sound and a well-defined approach.
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Still, more than a year's worth of touring and sticking to the same material (band members have insisted that they never write on the road) has made the group a powerful live force.
The only persistent and disturbing complaint that persisted throughout the performance was the size of the venue. Considering the buzz surrounding Phoenix as a band and considering the commercial success of their last release, Mile High Music organizers really should have booked the band on the Cougar Stage, the Wolf Stage or even the largest Kyocera Main Stage.
Switching the venues with Slightly Stoopid, who were playing at the Wolf at the same time, seems like it would have spared some uncomfortable overcrowding.