The Phoenix Foundation played at Concorde 2 in Brighton on Friday 13th May 2011 as part of The Great Escape Festival 2011.
The Phoenix Foundation chose the Great Escape to kick-off their largest UK tour thus far following grand reviews for their latest long player, Buffalo. A visit to the Brighton at this time of year offers folk the chance to dash around catching as many of the 300+ bands as possible playing in 30 venues over a 3-day period. This is a format that has many strengths but also means that acts are forced to cram their finer points into short 30-minute sets, with barely a moment to turn things around between acts.
Such haste didn’t prevent The Phoenix Foundation languidly launching proceedings with a low-key melancholic song, somewhat unrepresentative of the current LP and indeed much of the rest of the set. It hinted at the comfort each of the band’s sextet have in each other’s musical company, unsurprising given the fact that they have been together for over 10 years, albeit mostly back in their native New Zealand. They loosened things up with a slightly hirsute, pub-rocky version of Bitte Bitte that pushed Samuel Flynn Scott centre-stage amidst his very busy looking colleagues.
Flock of Hearts would rank as their most melodic song of the night with a pleasing, lilting pop-sensibility that contrasted with the slightly chaotic tone of the evening. The Thin Lizzy-style guitar solo pegged on to end went down very nicely, and the antics of the percussionist Will Ricketts throughout impressed my mate Al very much. The 30-minute democracy of The Great Escape leaves few opportunities for inter-song wit and repartee, which The Phoenix Foundation had displayed so charmingly on 6 Music the day before, so all they really managed was a remark about having been warned about being “stabbed up” in Brighton, which bemused all present. Perhaps it means something quite different in Wellington.
The earthy, quirkiness of Orange & Mango lightened the mood and set things up rather nicely up for the slowly ascending glory of the LP’s title track; Buffalo where it suddenly came together in a crystallization of all that seems best about The Phoenix Foundation. The multiple elements blended with tuneful, melodic ease for the high point of the evening as the short taster came to a close.
The Phoenix Foundation live lack the polish, and perhaps even some of the romance, of their studio work but on this night in Brighton one felt that thyme were setting down a marker for a tour that will gather them much attention over the coming three weeks. Pay them some of your own if you get the opportunity.