As I arrive at my local venue, I am greeted by something wonderful: Bipolar Sunshine opening for fabulous French new wave superstars, Phoenix. As a captivating wave of energy flows through the air amongst the Corinthian columns and high ceilings of Brixton Academy, it is hard not to become completely immersed in the surreal, soulful sound of Bipolar Sunshine and co. As he smoozes the crowd, this charming frontman sings tales of love and hope. As the drummer vigorously pounds away (with one of the best haircuts I’ve ever seen), synths blast, bass lines boom and songs are song with vivacity. Amalgamating the stadium rock romanticism of bands such as Kings of Leon and Bastille with lyrically acute rap and traditional tribal beats, Bipolar Sunshine succeed in delivering energised, uplifting anthems that have me getting my groove on and swaying from side to side, with more mellow moments even prompting a fellow crowd-member to make failed attempts at waving his lighter in the air… A perfect balance of heartfelt, emotive ballads with buoyant beats and enlivening spirit.
Bipolar Sunshine’s new single ‘Where Did The Love Go?’ is out now on iTunes, and you can catch Bipolar Sunshine for his wonderful live set supporting Rudimental on tour right now.
Although this was merely an added date to Phoenix’s stay in South London – their two shows last week having been deemed as not sufficient, tonight, too, was completely and utterly sold out. And how grateful I am that they were kind enough to extend their visit. How very privileged I feel to make up one of the many uber cool fans filling the academy.
As six silhouettes strut onto the stage, an overbearing wave of anticipation fills the air and – as the Oriental sounding intro of ‘Entertainment’ ripples from the stage – it is almost drowned out by the enthused cheers of the crowd. Suddenly, the whole room appears to have been uplifted and teleported to another world – a world of floaty, synthy goodness. A world of effortlessly cool, effervescent sparkle and magic.
As more old time classics blast out (‘Lasso’, ‘Rome’), Hedlund thrashes away at the drums like there’s no tomorrow, Coudert alternates between keyboards and percussion with exuberance, crunching guitars are played with a chicness it seems only the French are capable of, and Mars jumps in and out of the crowd as though greeting old friends (he has to have a specially long extenda-lead for his mic for all his excursions). Such a thrill to finally see this band live. Without having to say a word in between songs, Phoenix have mastered the perfect live presence: they are able to exude enthusiasm and charisma just by merely being. They naturally ooze this wonderfully uplifting aura that it is impossible not to become entirely captivated by.
As they get through yet more classics (‘Litzomania’, ‘Long Distance Call’), I can’t help but become increasingly excited and enthused by the fact that there is not even an ounce of disappointment creeping into my bones, as is so often the case when seeing a favourite band failing to play that one song you’ve been waiting for (*remembers the last time I was at Brixton to see a certain Mr Molko…*). In fact, Phoenix manage to exceed all expectations. As Mars smoothly croons through ‘’Trying To Be Cool’, it seems that there must be some irony intended as you can’t really get much cooler than this. However, that is what makes Mars just so endearingly loveable – his affable, and evidently modest nature. His cheerful buoyancy as he alternates between bouncing across the stage and swooning over his mic. And it’s not just the music that is completely stunning. There is a visual show fit for an art gallery. An incredible display of wonderfully staggering images from their Parisian homeland.
With guest appearances from Nicolas from Air to join Mars in an intimately majestic rendition of ‘Playground Love’, which the pair co-wrote for The Virgin Suicides, and an overwhelming blast of energy as Sebastien Tellier steals the limelight on both keys and guitar for an extended version of Long Distance Call, this is a night to be remembered. My personal highlight, however, comes in the form of ‘Funky Square Dance’; almost unrecognisable without its usual intro, as soon as those exceedingly ‘funky’ electro-pop beats and that unmistakable refrain kicks in, I can feel myself almost bursting with excitement. Not so uber cool as I had initially intended after all…
There is not a moment when this band lapse in energy, and what a spectacular feat that is. As the set ends as it started, with Entertainment being lovingly played, Mars makes his way through the crowd, persistently and politely thanking each and every one of us. I am blown away; what a compellingly wonderful and enjoyable experience Phoenix are able to create. As the music stops, I am left feeling utterly in awe of what has just happened, only to be quite literally blown away onto the 109 bus outside.