At NPR Music, we sometimes fear that our coworkers have become spoiled and jaded by the Tiny Desk Concerts; that our little office shows have become a perk only slightly more enticing than free day-old cookie fragments at the cafeteria. It's one thing to skip a Tiny Desk Concert for a staff meeting or a pressing deadline, but sometimes, people skip them out of forgetfulness, a fear of falling behind at work or, worst of all, a desire to avoid the exertion that goes with sauntering to and from the elevator.
But when Phoenix is on the docket, the earth moves. Senior VPs reschedule executive meetings. Employees smuggle in their spouses, roommates and children. Replies to the all-staff email include such written exclamations as "OMG," "ZOMG" and "omg!!!!!!!!!!" The French pop band was playing a big, sold-out venue that night — the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. — so many of our coworkers had tried and failed to get tickets.
The sounds of the group's best-selling 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix are so ubiquitous to viewers of TV commercials that they produce a Pavlovian impulse to purchase portable music players and luxury automobiles. But at this Tiny Desk Concert, instantly recognizable hits such as "1901" and "Lisztomania" were stripped down and reassembled as sweetly shambling acoustic numbers — they still popped, but they took on new forms.
As an added bonus, Phoenix closed its lovely little set with "Playground Love," its collaboration with Air from the Virgin Suicides soundtrack. The performance provided a gentle reminder that, while Phoenix makes some of the zippiest sounds of the moment — and packs our office to the point of sweat-box suffocation — its gift for sweet, charming pop music isn't tethered to a particular style or era.