April 26, 2010
Last week there was no better place to be in Chicago then watching Hot Chip and The xx‘s sold-out concert at Riviera Theatre. It seems like every time I make my way to The Riv, I’ve seen an incredible, life-affirming show (see The Hold Steady, Belle & Sebastian, The Decemberists). I don’t know if it’s something about the venue itself, it’s booking staff, or if I’ve just been very lucky, but I’ve always had an amazing experience there (plus there’s easily accessible street parking!). This concert was a masterful example of build and release. The xx opened the show and built up the momentum with their hypnotic dream-pop and it was followed up by the outburst of glee that was Hot Chip’s hugely energetic set. It made for an amazing night of music.
The xx have had no problem finding an audience for their unique, entrancing music, they just came off releasing one of the best albums of 2009 and have become perhaps the year’s biggest breakout band. The audience was very receptive to the minimalstic, transcendent sounds of the band, which speaks volumes of both their seemling instant ubiquity in indie culture and their captivating music. The xx opened, appropriately enough, with “Intro”, a song which was recently thrusted to the spotlight when it was used in the Apollo Ohno AT&T commercial. The lighting back lit the band beautifully making them appear as shadowy figures which adds to the intrigue of their music.
“Crystalized”, my favorite track on their self-titled debut, came next and it’s just as mesmerizing of a song live as it is on record. Other then the occasional extended instrumental passages, their songs did not stray very far from the album, but just seeing the stark atmospheres and Oliver and Romy’s seductive harmonies crafted on stage was a treat within itself. It was especially interesting to watch the DJ booth where Jamie reproduced the beats from the album through wholly digital means (save one seldom-used cymbal). Most of all, the performance reminded me why I fell for the band in the first place and made me excited to see what they have in store for us next.
Hot Chip have been accused of mellowing out with their latest, more soulful album, but any traces of slowing down will be quickly debunked if you ever have the pleasure of seeing a Hot Chip concert. I don’t think apart from a Girl Talk you’ll be able to find a more dance-crazed set, with literally everyone in the crowd bouncing up and down and waving in their arms in the air like they just don’t care. The band, which had six members and countless instruments, played straight into the audience’s hands, feeding off the room’s energy. Their stage presence is absolutely kinetic, whether it’s singer/keyboardist Alexis Taylor grabbing a pair of maracas and jumping to the front of the stage to work the audience or multi-instrumentalist Joe Goddard rapidly switching from guitar to synths to steel drums and back to guitar, there was always plenty of movement on stage to match the active crowd.
The setlist was all that you could hope for, beginning primarily with tracks from One Life Stand and then moving towards the classics from their previous albums, mixing their soulful ballads like “Alley Cats” and “Brothers” with the adrenaline-pumping disco jams that made up the majority of the set. The sound was excellent throughout the night with the multiple synth / keyboard sounds mixing wonderfully with Alexis’ smooth, laid-back vocal style and the intense drumming. The heavy emphasis on percussion was visible at all times with two drum sets, maracas, steel drums, and a drum machine filling out the stage, and up to four members playing them at once. It’s unbelievable how tight the band were with so much going on at once and while still showing an impressive amount of showmanship.
The band opened with ”Hand Me Down Your Love”, one of the many club bangers from their new album, showcasing Alexis Taylor’s exceptional piano-playing skills. Immediately following was the tropical rhythms and rock guitar riffs of “One Pure Thought”, a song which definitely benefited from being heard in a live setting. But it was “Thieves in the Night”, a slow-building jam that erupts with a massive hook and synth/guitar attack at the climax that absolutely tore the place apart. The live performance solidified the song as one of my favorite tracks of the year. “Thieves” set the precedent for the rest of the night as the band thrilled the crowd with their irresistible electronica sounds.
For the rest of the set, Riviera Theater became a crazy, sweaty dance party with the band playing just nearly all of their hit singles including “Over and Over”, “One Life Stand”, “Boy From School” and “Take It In” (although sadly not “Shake A Fist”). The set ended with an extended “Hold On”, a Made In The Dark deep cut which was surprisingly was one of the biggest highlights of the night. The band saved the best for last though with an encore of “I Feel Better”, “No Fit State” and mega-hit “Ready For The Floor″ closing the night. The song exploded out of the speakers and had the Alexis Taylor climbing up the speakers and the crowd jumping and singing along (I dare you to find something funner to sing to then the “you’re my number one guy” bridge). There’s no argument, Hot Chip put on a seriously phenomenal live and I’d easily rank their performance at Riviera among my funnest concert experiences ever.
View many more Hot Chip / The xx pictures after the jump. Click here for the entire set.