Reviewed on Wednesday March 5

As live gigs go, this one was almost a contest. Who put more work in, who got the other off most, who was more impressed, and who gave their vocal chords the biggest workout – the crowd or Phoenix? It was difficult to tell. The few thousand fans who’d flooded into the Hordern Pavillion made something of a karaoke show out of the evening, and together the performers onstage and we sweating sardines put a helluva lot in.

For me, Phoenix meant aimlessly driving around with friends who’d just gotten their P-plates; Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix scoring my 17th summer. There were plenty of fans in the same demographic, but also some teeny tiny ones who most likely came to the French foursome last year through Bankrupt!, and plenty from their debut album of 2000, United.

Though most crowd favourites came from the 2009 record, Phoenix played a taste of each of their four albums, giving every punter what they came for. Some sick visuals – as my friend described it – accompanied ‘Love Like A Sunset’, driving through the streets of Paris. And nestled between parts one and two of that seven-minute track was more recent hit ‘Bankrupt!’, just to keep us on our toes. A disco ball came down for ‘Fences’ and ‘If I Ever Feel Better’, which made for a surprisingly intimate, dancehall feel for such a large-scale gig.

For the encore, frontman Thomas Mars, accompanied by Chris Mazzalai on guitar, walked off the stage and sang to the front row. We must’ve gained about ten metres at this point, as the entire crowd pushed in to grab Mars’ hands, unbutton his shirt, and pretend he might be serenading us personally. But the real glory came at the conclusion of the show, when Mars walked through the crowd hugging (yes, hugging!) and thanking fans before crowd-surfing through the moshpit and standing on our shoulders.

Each of the musos laughed onstage and shook their heads in disbelief at our excitement. I’ve never seen a band enjoy itself so much – bands as big as Phoenix, least of all. “Every time we come here, you never disappoint,” smiled Mars. And we all smiled back, proud of our efforts.

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