I'm not the only one who fell hard for Phoenix this year. They topped AV Club's year-end albums list, played essentially every late-night variety show in America and even won over ESPN.com's "The Sports Guy" Bill Simmons. And that pervasive presence certainly showed Wednesday, when the band had a sold-out Newport Music Hall crowd eating out of its hands.

I'm not the only one who fell hard for Phoenix this year. They topped AV Club's year-end albums list, played essentially every late-night variety show in America and even won over ESPN.com's "The Sports Guy" Bill Simmons. And that pervasive presence certainly showed Wednesday, when the band had a sold-out Newport Music Hall crowd eating out of its hands.

Wednesday's show was a marked improvement from Phoenix's last stop through Columbus in 2006, when they played Little Brother's in support of the superb lite-pop makeover It's Never Been Like That. At that point, the band had mastered their modern update on yacht-ready pop songwriting but apparently had yet to find its footing as a rock band. Despite the wonderful source material, that show fell flat.

This time out, after touring basically all year behind breakthrough Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, they arrived as seasoned rock stars still starry-eyed and humble, but with more than enough charisma to send the crowd into elation. It doesn't hurt that the new material hits hard. No one would mistake their blend of rock and dance music for anything more than sophisticated bubblegum, but they played it with as much force as anybody could hope for, and Thomas Mars' boyish glee is pretty endearing.

Built mostly on songs from the past two records, the setlist was pretty much a non-stop singalong delight with a few unfortunate detours. "Love Like a Sunset," the band's attempt at an artsy instrumental voyage, is a weak spot on the otherwise spotless Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and it's twice as bad live. I guess Mars deserves a few minutes to catch his breath, but watching the guitarists twiddling through mindless cycling riffs was the antithesis of exhilarating. And using the encore to force lesser old material on a captive audience still waiting on "1901" was anticlimactic to say the least. Maybe it would have elicited a stronger reaction if I cared at all about the band's first two LPs.

Other than those minor gripes, though, I couldn't have been more pleased with this show. I even liked the ridiculous smoke machine light show and the glowsticks people were tossing everywhere. From the relentless keyboard trills of "Girlfriend" to the hip-shaking fun of "Consolation Prizes" to the shimmering wall of sound on "Rome," it was just about as satisfying a set of music as I've experienced this year. And when it finally came, the "Fallin'! Fallin'!" bit from "1901" was a lovely conclusion, even if such sentiment couldn't be more false for a band on the rise.

Locals Afortiori opened the show. Daniel Erb and band's heart-on-sleeve, Cobain + Yorke version of alt-rock must be what MySpace means by "Melodramatic Popular Song." They were remarkably competent and professional about at it, but I can't say it moved me much. Looking forward to seeing them again sometime.

Setlist: Lisztomania Long Distance Call Lasso Run Fences Girlfriend Armistice Love Like a Sunset Napoleon Says Rally Consolation Prizes Rome + outro

Encore: Everything is Everything (just vocals and guitar) If I Ever Feel Better Too Young 1901