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Phoenix Plays for Everyone


I’ve really gotten friendly with the 4 minutes and 20 seconds of 1901. Two specific spots in this video stand out for me. The first begins building up around 2:40, when the bridge leads into the chorus, and the vocals – Thomas Mars –  makes eye contact with someone in the crowd.

Before this moment, Mars occassional looks up from his singing to fish for a face that recognizes their sound. But he doesn’t seem to catch one until 2:40, when he finds a cheerful face that knows it’s Phoenix serenading, and this face happens to be in line with the steady-cam camera. Here it is:

In this way, when Mars points, he’s not only pointing to the face that recognizes him, but also to us, the viewers.

The second specific spot begins to happen at 3:55. The band is done playing. They are mingling with those bold enough to approach, and this dialogue occurs with Foreign Man:

Foreign Man– But people don’t recognize it’s Phoenix?

Phoenix– Oh, a few people… you recognized them?

Foreign Man– Yeah, I have your CD, your album…


Foreign Man– Because when [Mars] was singing, I thought, the voice… it must be a great artist…

For Foreign Man to recognize the band serenading was not just any street band, but the world-famous Phoenix, and for him to do this not by sight but sound – he heard Mars singing, he didn’t have to see Mars singing – is, at least for me, what art is all about. It was his voice that clued Foreign Man in on what was really happening, not his appearance, not the story he was telling, but his finely tuned instrument.

Foreign Man could’ve been blind and dumb, and he still would’ve recognized Phoenix. All it took was the voice, the voice told him that a great artist was making his art nearby.

For some reason, I find this beautiful.

March 12, 2010 1:21 pm

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