Live review from Playful Palooza:
I Don’t Need To Write A Breakup Song Just To Be Successful
Your Fake Smile
Let Them All In
Creep (Radiohead cover)
As It Was (Harry Styles cover)
“Is the theme of The Underground 20th anniversary, acts that didn’t exist when The Underground started?” a cynical onlooker commented as Discovery Bay’s Phoenix Broderick and his band took to the stage. If that was true, it’s an excellent sign of things to come: Phoenix is a charismatic and magnetic performer, with a distinct skill for songwriting and enviable singing voice, and his talented band created a rich soundscape onto which evocative lyrics painted vivid pictures.
His love for Harry Styles was evident – overtly, as through his falsetto-avoiding cover of As It Was, which fit well within Phoenix’s wheelhouse – but also in the candid Your Fake Smile and Let Them All In, the latter also evoking a more folk-oriented Belle and Sebastian sound with a tight bassline laid down by bandmate Will.
Phoenix’s approach to lyricism is wry and self-aware: his jolly, piano-embellished opening track I Don’t Need To Write A Breakup Song Just To Be Successful poked fun at the pop sphere and marked him out as a fresh voice, and his radio DJ intros and patter were highly entertaining. But he gave in to something softer on the distinctly romantic You, which was perfectly punctuated by a plume of dry ice released overhead by sound guy Jack.
A rendition of Creep, however, felt unnecessary and lacking in subtlety, especially when compared to the band’s own superb originals. Incredible Boy, introduced as the contrast to Radiohead’s love-hate megahit, was about staying grounded; a paean to positive self-affirmation, which felt far more effective. Like Keisha Buckland, who was on the bill before Phoenix, the singer mulled over dating in the digital age and attempted to figure out what was going on in the heads of his peers.
Phoenix’s confidence and stage presence belies his young years, and his set livened up a chilly day at the harbourfront festival. A natural successor to more established soloists like Mr Koo, he appears fully formed as a showman and ready to make an impact of a far greater radius than Hong Kong.