Not to say Friday's sold-out crowd didn't enjoy it - scalpers were selling single tickets for upwards of $100 - but can you really put a price tag on white noise? Ask your alarm clock that makes rainfall sound like downtown, and then add the fact that hey, we're dancing European. The answer will probably turn into something like "I just knew my ennui was smarter than your irony." Phoenix really makes you think about reconsidering your apathy. We have officially reached a point where song, comma, song, comma, song, comma (hey!), comma, song, comma, ready (here we go!), comma, song, comma (woo!) counts as a rock concert. It's the gentrification of fun perfected by the mundane, sold to the willing for a cost that doesn't matter as long as the end result is "Remember that time we saw that show at that place?" Our souls are turning Xerox. Opening with "Lizstomania," their not-so-veiled attempt at trying to prove that "See, I told you I could name an obscure moment in that one British band's career," Phoenix channeled their inner Who in an ominous way, giving the audience one of the handful of songs they could sing all the way through far too early. From there, it was an hour and a half of going through the robotic motions, feeling more like a mediocre episode ofMy Super Sweet 16
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where that girl begs her dad to pay for that band she just heard on radio station X's Top 20 countdown. Songs like "Lasso," "Consolation Prizes," "Fences" and "Armistice," which normally sound perfectly okay digitally spewed from the comfort of earbuds, didn't really translate well live. They felt forced, making the obligation of the sometimes blinky light show behind the band feel more like the place where moths go to die rather than a complement to a concert by a band that is supposed to make you want to dance, not yawn. Or maybe it was just because the show was at Verizon - the combination of assigned upstairs seats and fresh-out-of-the-oven giant soft pretzels does not go down well for a music fan who might be there for the singular purpose of rock and roll enjoyment. But make no mistake, the crowd was enjoying themselves immensely, downright joyously seat-bopping (and stand-bopping downstairs) to the sounds of the automation - which only goes to highlight the paucity of musical choices in this the age of iPod ubiquitousness. Phoenix makes songs that can all act as singles, and clearly knows that's the business model consumers not only want, but demand. No longer does the entirety of an album matter; gone are the days when 13 songs put together made up one large concept in which to define a position in youth culture. What we have today, readily apparent Friday night, is a market where buyers can pick and choose the art that fits perfectly into their preordained routine of eating cereal with no marshmallows. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but if and when a rock concert assumes the position of latex predictability, we all lose the direction we need to understand difference as defined by our idols. Only when we demand that the clock be rewound will we be able to lose the sanity that comes with sanitation. Music can and should give us that. Phoenix didn't.