What to expect from Phoenix in Manila, the second time around

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French rock band Phoenix will perform in Manila for the second time this August. Phoenix is (from left) Christian Mazzalai, Laurent Brancowitz, Thomas Mars, and Deck d'Arcy. Photo by EMMA LE DOYEN/Courtesy of KARPOS MEDIA

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) – Phoenix guitarist Christian Mazzalai was trapped in a studio in Paris while the band was recording their newest album, “Ti Amo.” It was the night when terrorists attacked (among others) Bataclan, a concert hall where Phoenix also previously performed.

Lead vocalist Thomas Mars recounted how the event brought about a sense of guilt — they were recording in a studio while around them chaos ensued — which dissipated when they realized that their work wasn’t about denial. “It’s not a way to escape,” says Mazzalai, speaking to CNN Philippines Life, in a phone call made from London weeks before their arrival in Manila for their second concert on August 15.

The French rock band, which also includes Deck d’Arcy (bass, keyboards) and Laurent Brancowitz (guitar), will hold a concert at the Kia Theater in Quezon City as part of their 33-leg world tour, spanning the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

Known for hits such as “1901” and “Liztomania,” the Grammy-award winning band (the band won Best Alternative Album for their 2010 album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”) has previously visited the Philippines in 2014, performing their brand of synth pop, new wave, and alternative rock music before a joyous audience at the World Trade Center.

Phoenix Phoenix live at the World Trade Center in Manila during their 2014 tour. Photo by MAGIC LIWANAG/Courtesy of KARPOS MEDIA

“Our goal as musicians is to create alternatives to this world,” says Mazzalai. “We created music that heals us, and if it heals us, [we hope] it creates that effect for someone else. That’s how we deal with the situation.”

“If I Ever Feel Better” from the album “United,” for example, is not only a giddy dance tune set to lyrics laden with a bleak kind of optimism: “If I ever feel better / remind me to spend some good time with you,” the lyrics go. Mazzalai says that it is at this juncture, “when happiness and sadness meet,” that they realize the goal to “heal.”

In this sense, “Ti Amo” (released June) finds itself in the same landscape as Phoenix’s previous albums. “Tuttifrutti,” a light pop song that floats in your ear, invites you to get away but also to “smash the castle, delete it … / wreck the spectacle you live in.” The album is self-described to be about a lost paradise, maybe a “fantasized version of Italy” that explores the French rock band’s European and Latin roots. Yet the album retains a heaviness that seeps through their lyrics.

“Some things they don’t matter ‘til they matter to you / they stole that money from a homeless girl,” goes a line from the first album single “J-Boy.” It continues: “The truth is we’re all to blame / there are lies and moral consequences.”

The album’s sound may be reminiscent of summer vacations and lost romances, but it does not completely untether itself from the ground. “When we write songs, we want to surprise ourselves,” says Mazzalai of their creative process. “We try to be selfish, and when we wrote this album, we want Phoenix to deliver something that’s very light and luminous.”

The influx of influences was not a decision consciously made by the band, but arose out of a spirit of freedom and improvisation. The same spirit is what they bring to their concerts, and what they will try to bring to Manila on August 15.

Earlier concerts in their 2017 tour, which played on the idea of “mirrors and duality,” featured the band playing behind a big slanted mirror, making it look like there are two bands playing instead of one: one onstage, one floating above. It’s an apt comparison to how their songs feel like: airy, carefree, a little bit out of this world.

Phoenix Phoenix lead singer Thomas Mars crowdsurfing during their 2014 concert in Manila. Photo by MAGIC LIWANAG/Courtesy of KARPOS MEDIA

The concept was born while they were recording “Ti Amo,” says Mazzalai, but they won’t be bringing the stage to Manila. “It’s too heavy,” he says. “But we will find a very special thing for this tour. But definitely it won’t be the same as the other tours.”

“What’s good about the concert is you can put everything, anything can happen, you cannot predict anything. That’s the beauty of a live show,” says Mazzalai. “We prepare for the tour, we prepare many visual tricks, many songs from the new record, but I don’t know what will happen. That’s what makes it exciting.”

Banking on the success of their 2014 concert in Manila, the band hopes, through Mazzalai, for a repeat of that experience. “The crowd last time was one of the best of the whole tour,” he says. “It was a very epic and crazy concert, so that’s why we are coming back.”


Phoenix on Tour: Manila is on Tuesday, August 15, 8 p.m. at the Kia Theater. The concert is presented by Karpos Media. Tickets are available at TicketNet.