October 22, 2010 — I’ve never reviewed an arena show before. Also, the only thing I’ve ever been to Ricoh Coliseum for is a Marlies game. I know, I know, a venue shouldn’t matter; it should just be about the band, the music, and the fans. But it still took a little while to get used to my surroundings upon arrival.
It was assigned seating around the rink area (took me forever to find my section, had to ask about 3 different staff members to point me in the right direction) and what appeared to be general admission for anyone “on the ice”. It was also freezing cold even though the venue that could hold 5000 people was relatively full. Again: hockey arena.
Wavves were the opener for the evening. From where I was sitting they seemed disconnected from the audience and just wanted to play their songs and get the hell off the stage. I imagine that it’s tough being the opener for the opener, but relax guys, and take a second to look at where you are! Yes, that is a lot of people, and yes, they’re all listening, but that’s a good thing! Their tunes were reminiscent of early Ramones – raw, in your face, repetitive phrases and fast and simplistic chord progressions. However, they seemed to modernize the retro sound by finding creative ways to manipulate tempo, and with what seemed to be a “wah” pedal on the bass. Evidently, punk isn’t dead. I couldn’t help but feel an aura of “what is this all about?” among an audience that seemed politely supportive, but only a few bodies here and there that seemed receptive.
Tokyo Police Club was up next. From where I was sitting I was close enough to watch the band’s pre-show rituals: drummer Greg Alsop played finger drums on the bleachers while they were forming a circle to loudly cheer in unison and high five each other before heading for the stage. Local heroes to the indie music scene, TPC had it all; a comfortable stage presence, a connection with the audience, and a modesty that eluded mutual respect between the band and the crowd. As they went into “Nature of the Experiment” lead singer, David Monks said, “We are Tokyo Police Club. And we’re home.”
Graham Wright played keys, Korg, guitar AND tambourine. His erratic movements were so engaging, he just couldn’t be ignored. Josh Hook on lead guitar was calm and cool, while the drummer played with a beaming smile on his face for the whole set. Monks let his signature voice speak for the band, mesmerizing listeners. His natural swagger showed that he was at ease and just doing what he loves to do and does best.
There was an impromptu clap interlude during “Elephant Shell” that solidified the fact that TCP were made to play such a large venue. Naturally, TPC’s stadium/anthem sound fit the bill. No encore though, which seemed to be abrupt but TCP just knew that their turn was over, and it was time to let Phoenix take the stage.
The first song Phoenix performed was “Lisztomania”. Upon researching Phoenix, I found various video clips of the band talking about the album “Wolfgang Amadeus” while they were in the studio recording it. In one clip about “Lisztomania,” lead singer Thomas Mars says, “When we finished this track, it was obvious that it was going to start the album. It represented the whole album.” So, it seemed fitting when they started their set with the familiar tune.
The stage set-up was interesting: all members, with the exception of the drummer who was on a pedestal downstage, were all up front, in a straight line. It was amazing how they could read each other while not facing one another. The crowd was surprisingly tame. Everyone was just in awe of what was happening in front of them, cheering and “woo-ing” whenever breaks permitted them to. However, no one was sitting for the entire set.
The show was quite the production; change-ups in lighting color and design complete with black-outs afterwords came with pretty well with every song. Before the song “Love is like a Sunset Part I,” a white sheet came down that separated the audience from the band and stayed in place till the end of the song. Also, for a couple tracks near the end of the show, the band came out into the sea of people and played a couple acoustic tracks right in the middle of the arena, including a song sung in French which lead singer, Thomas Mars introduced by saying, “We want to do a song in French, I hope it’s not too awkward.”
As the familiar korg sounds of the intro for “1901” started up, Mars commented, “This is our last one.” I thought to myself, “What would they do for their encore?” There wasn’t an encore, but they played a hyper-extended version of the song. Just as the song came to an end, Mars jumped off-stage and walked through the aisles and into my section. With the support of the band on stage he began to sing the chorus once more from his new spot and everyone was going crazy. He then proceeded to crowdsurf his way back to the stage for the end of the song. With that, the audience knew there was nowhere else they should have been that night.