It is fair to note that the French are not generally known for their great rock n’ roll bands. As the French are easily offended, I will modify that statement to say that Daft Punk are cool and Francoise Hardy was very pretty. Why France didn’t make more breakout bands I am not sure, other than rock n’ roll is not original to France and therefore perhaps was late in being accepted in that culture because France is all about original culture. So it is novel in the big ol’ garrulous birthplace of rock, the U.S. of A., to see the French band Phoenix win such big success. I went to see them perform at the Showbox Sodo in Seattle last night to a sold-out and rapturous crowd, who were not wearing berets or throwing wheels of Brie whatsoever.

The line to get in the club was very long last night, which was easily avoided by us smart over-21 folks by going into the separate bar/restaurant prior to the door time of 8PM. After a few minutes, a table opened up with one of the seats having a pretty good sightline to the stage, an excellent backup score. The Showbox Sodo is kind of like a big barn, with a long flat concrete floor and very high ceilings with lots of heavy wooden exposed beams but hopefully no dung to step in. A cool place, but challenging for us shorter folks sometimes to see the band on the floor. Seeing is good. As I ate my curried chicken sandwich and drank my cup of beer, I watched the people file in. The show was general admission, so people crowded in at the front immediately. This was a really young crowd, too – lots and lots of teenage girls and dudes in some modified hipster gear. I would have worn this t-shirt with a smirk, although I too, I admit, was wearing skinny jeans.

Phoenix has been releasing material for 10 years now, but broke though in the States last year with their album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, not in small part for several of the songs being pulled for use in some hit movies and big commercials, and appearances by the band on all the late-night TV shows. It’s a very good record, with perfect modern pop production, catchy and cool, sort of like the Strokes with an accent, Jet without the swagger, or a lighter and less-synth-heavy MGMT. It’s very likable and current, without the band resorting to autotune on every vocal, writing monosyllabic lyrics about morons for morons, or putting on sequined diapers and eyeliner and calling it art.

Having seen The Soft Pack earlier in the day, I wanted to see them again because I really like them duhhh, so I made my way down to the floor, which was The Hard Pack. Still, not too hard. I don’t know if they were really the best choice of openers for the gaggle of high school girls in front waiting to swoon over Phoenix – too loud, too punky, somewhat reserved as performers in comparison – but the crowd was polite to encouragingly enthusiastic towards them, which is a win in any opening band’s book. Mid-screen, I believe, is a Wookie.

After their set, more young ladies and their dates began crowding up, so I moved closer off to the side to try for a better shot. How I wish sometimes I could tolerate wearing KISS platform boots or something. As I waited, I was treated to the sight of what appeared to be either an albino or alien couple who were so very moved in anticipation of seeing Phoenix that they had to make out the whole time, including the guy getting on his knees and biting albino/alien woman’s butt. You think you’ve seen it all, realize you haven’t, and so wish you were blind sometimes. I knew I wanted to catch “Lisztomania” for vid, so I distracted myself by Googling recent Phoenix setlists on my phone. Aha! First song up! The camera couldn’t get a good focus with the start in the dark, but the audio is good.

You see my nemesis there to the left: the Silver Tower of Blockage. Ah, well. S’OK. I hung out there for about half the show with the happy boppers, then decided to move back to the table. It was nice to have the change of perspective, and to get a drink. Love the dual drummers on this – very cool and very visually-dramatic too.

I watched the crowd, dancing and singing along and putting their hands up even all the way back on the floor, and smiled in a benign-Queen-Victoria way down upon them. Phoenix put on a tight show. They seemed to really enjoy playing very much which is something I always like to see, and were very appreciative of the crowd’s love. I am betting lots of people went home saying that was one of the best shows evah. It’s a good time for Phoenix: young, French, talented, and making it bigtime in the most major of markets without sleazy Serge Gainsbourg as your manager or something. For me as a more casual fan of the band, the live show seemed to miss the sparkle and sweetness of the albums, the qualities sort of drowned by thump, but that’s not a complaint, just a noted difference. Some bands I want roar, some I want a bit more nuanced.

I ducked out just a bit before the end of the show to avoid the leaving crowd as well as timid and/or barreling teen drivers, because je suis un femme américain futé.