In Music Reviews

PHOX made fans happy at The Pabst Theater Wednesday night with its incredible - and possibly final - MKE performance. (PHOTO: Kellen Nordstrom)

PHOX hits The Pabst for its last Milwaukee show - for now

PHOX came to the Pabst Theater – the group's favorite Wisconsin venue – to perform in Milwaukee one last time Wednesday night. After years of making music together, the Baraboo-based band announced this would be its last tour before going on a hiatus, ready to separate for a bit and explore other parts of their identities, as lead singer Monica Martin told the media.

While there was definitely some sadness, there was also a sense of celebration as energetic fans poured into the theater – and the excitement only increased as the band came on stage and started the set by belting out one of its hits, "Leisure." From literally the first note of the song, Martin blew everyone away. The album recordings do not do her voice justice. She can belt. She has range. Her voice has a rasp to it, making it feel like a mix of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. Simply put, her talent and vocal cords are incredible.

"Slow Motion," "1973," "Evil" and others came off as smooth and sultry, making it easy listening for everyone in attendance. It felt nice to just sit there and take in the music. It was a sound you could wind down to, a nice feeling for the middle of the week.

Everything about the performance showed refreshing simplicity. They didn't need to have big theatrics or a crazy light show. They could take the stage with just a rug and a lamp accompanying them. Cool blue, purple and green lights filled the stage. The band members swayed, sang and did their thing.

That's how you can tell a band is talented. The performance looks effortless, but the sound still leaves you in awe.

The concert got even better when PHOX began putting twists on its own hits. Martin, for example, took a moment to go solo on the stage with only her ukulele. She made the whole Pabst Theater – even us folks in the balcony – feel like we were in the front row. It felt especially intimate since, at the moment, you could really feel the emotion of her lyrics reeling you in.

During the whole show, but particularly at moments like this, people in the audience simply sat back and listened. They swayed to the beat with no phones in hand, just living in the moment. They all fully embraced and enjoyed what could be their last time seeing PHOX.

After these more intimate moments, the band got the crowd hyped up again with one of the set's last numbers, "Noble Heart." It featured an extreme guitar solo and head banging, delivering explosive energy to the max. The audience went crazy, and by the end of the song, fans could not stop applauding, even as the band went off the stage.

Of course, it didn't take long for that loud love to get PHOX back on stage for the encore. This portion of the night somehow managed to blow the rest of the already strong show away, opening with Martin getting funky by belting out "Are You That Somebody" by Aaliyah and doing the song more than justice. Before getting into the last tune, Martin explained that the group's hiatus will lead them to figure out life and that, post-band, they all have cool journeys ahead, which made fans a little more optimistic. She then launched into the closing song, "Espeon."

Once they officially left the stage, fans had mixed feelings – happiness from how amazing the performance was, but also sadness wondering when or if they will be back. But one thing is for certain: If PHOX did decide to return, there would be one happy Milwaukee.


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