This weekend, I practically lived a Take Away show with Phoenix, thanks to 93XRT, a heralded Chicago radio station that puts on intimate "Live From Studio X" gigs that listeners can win a spot at by signing up online. Generally attended by about 100 fans, they regularly host a wide variety of major musicians, for example indie artists like Beck and Florence and The Machine.
For Phoenix's set, the band opted for an in-the-round style performance with us in the audience sitting cross-legged in a circle around them. When we first arrived at Martyr's bar 10 minutes prior to the announced start time, we were shockingly the first in line as the band pulled up on Lincoln Avenue and slyly strolled in.
Once inside, we all looked on in amazement at the keyboards and microphone laying in the middle of the small venue. As we waited there was a sense of disbelief, as many had to be reassured they weren't dreaming.
That was until Deck d'Arcy, Christian Mazzalai, and Laurent Brancowitz appeared along with lead singer Thomas Mars, who took his spot, laying down on the floor amongst the crowd. Thomas explained they had been inspired to start playing untraditional formats following their legendary appearances on La Blogotheque's Take Away shows. The Parisian blog films impromptu performances by musicians in the streets of France and has always found a perfect partner with Phoenix since their Eiffel Tower spot and most recently, 22-minute Versailles featurette.
Playing stripped down versions of Bankrupt! tunes "Entertainment" and "Trying to Be Cool," Phoenix also treated us to a touching take on "Countdown" and an ecstatic "1901." After answering a few questions with DJ Marty Lennartz about R. Kelly (apparently Laurent's lady was behind the collaboration), the band stuck around to chat with fans and sign limited edition posters the station gave away.
A rare and unique experience; how could it possible be topped at their Aragon Ballroom set later that same night?
Though this show was relocated from the cavernous UIC Pavilion, Uptown's ornate Aragon Ballroom made for a far better setting for the return of the Parisian rockers. Kicking off the night with "Entertainment," it wasn't more than a couple songs until Thomas was in the crowd singing "Lisztomania" with 5,000 of his newest friends.
The set borrowed from throughout their decade plus catalogue, even tying together "Too Young" with "Girlfriend" before the epic Bankrupt! medley of "S.O.S. in Bel Air," "Trying to Be Cool," and "Drakkar Noir," all leading up to the infectious beat drop of "Chloroform" before the exploding experimental "Sunskrupt!" (a visual live take on "Love Like A Sunset" that's on par with a Daft Punk performance).
Setting the crowd to complete celebration mode with "1901," Thomas climbed into the right balcony to serenade folks with "If I Ever Feel Better/Funky Squaredance" and "Countdown" before making his way back to the floor to crowd surf through the venue as the band blasted through a reprieve of "Entertainment."
Managing to top their incredible Lollapalooza set, Phoenix further proved 2013 belongs to them.