Phoenix brings new dimension to rock show at festival
Rocking out under an imposing mirror, Phoenix took its music into a second dimension Saturday as the band headlined New York’s Governors Ball festival.
A week ahead of the release of its disco-infused, Italian-inspired sixth album, Phoenix invested in an innovative yet elegantly simple stage design with a giant mirror slanted inward at 45 degrees.
The effect, at the close of a pristine June day, was to create a duplicate stage, with the rockers visible both as they played on stage and again in mirror image above them.
Frontman Thomas Mars at times lay down on stage hidden, only to appear to the crowd on the mirror — serving almost the inverse of Pink Floyd’s isolating Wall, one of the most legendary metaphors in rock stage design.
Phoenix, longtime underground artists in Paris, catapulted to the world stage in 2009 with the album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” which came with infectious dance-rock hits such as “Lisztomania.”
“Ti Amo,” which is Phoenix’s first album in four years and comes out on June 9, takes as its motif Italy, or at least a fantasized version of the country with feel-good beats and lyricism about steamy nights and ice cream.
As Phoenix played the album’s track “Fior di Latte,” the mirror appeared to be covered in pink syrup. At other times, the mirror flashed a kaleidoscope of colors and slides of a waterfall and Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
Guitarist Christian Mazzalai in a recent interview with AFP said Phoenix had spent long hours designing the stage and voiced delight at returning to the road after more than a year of writing and recording.
Mars closed the set by surfing far into the crowd and then rolling back over fans’ outstretched hands. Phoenix then bid farewell, fireworks went off overhead and the walkout music was from Italian singing great Ornella Vanoni.
– Childish Gambino hints at farewell –
Governors Ball, founded in 2011 as the first of New York’s growing number of summer festivals, took place under unusually tight security with National Guard members and heavily armed police out in force at exits to the venue on the city’s compact Randall’s Island.
The three-day festival comes less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 22 people at the end of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester and as London was hit by another attack.
Other leading draws Saturday included Childish Gambino, who stunned an adoring crowd by hinting at retirement once he finishes his next album.
“I’ll see you for the last Gambino album,” said the artist, after declaring that Governors Ball would be his sole show of 2017.
Music is a side career for Childish Gambino — otherwise known as actor Donald Glover, a star of television series “Atlanta” and “Community,” who will appear in an upcoming “Star Wars” film.
While often described as a hip-hop artist, Childish Gambino has built a style of modern soul driven by his wide-ranging singing voice.
In December he released his third album, “Awaken, My Love!” full of R&B rhythms and vocal shifts on songs such as “Redbone,” about an unfaithful partner.
The festival also heard classic hip-hop from the Wu-Tang Clan, the New York-bred collective who exactly 20 years earlier released its best-selling album “Wu-Tang Forever.”
RZA, generally considered the leader of the crew of around 10 rappers, boasted of the group’s success in a set that turned into a mosh pit among fans mostly too young to have been listening to the Wu-Tang Clan in 1997.
Elsewhere, Mark Ronson — the veteran producer who became a star on his own with the 2014 mega-hit “Uptown Funk” — teased a new song he said he was working on with Australian artist Kevin Parker.
The driving dance track came unexpectedly in a set in which Ronson served as DJ, putting on everything from Michael Jackson to Jefferson Airplane.