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Concert Review: The Chemical Brothers

Concert Review: The Chemical Brothers

The Shrine is not for every act, but for those with the wherewithal to fill it like the Chemical Brothers, possibilities present themselves.

The Shrine Expo Hall, Los Angeles, CA
05/15/19

A good venue goes a long way. For example, I saw Kali Uchis for the first time at the Shrine Auditorium at USC, and it overwhelmed her. The venue failed to carry her sound at all, and at that point she boasted few visuals that would help her fill such a space. However, I just so happened to luck out with a friend who invited me to her double bill with Jorja Smith at the Greek Theatre. Amazing what a scene change and a few months of practice makes – Uchis delivered at a level I never expected from her. The Chemical Brothers, whom I witnessed at this past week at the Shrine, are more suited towards the Auditorium than the Amphitheater, though they just so happened to play both venues one after the other. I bless my stars I caught them at their earlier show.

The Shrine excels when you see an act with a strong visual element and tunes that induce hip shaking. Because of this, an act like Uchis failed where the Chemical Brothers exceled, and vice versa. To be fair, I cannot speak with firsthand experience to the Brothers’ Greek show, but I can say that the balloons they unleashed at the Shrine would not be as fun when you’re seated in an amphitheater.

Before the electronic duo took the stage, Black Madonna warmed the crowd up with a 90 minute set. Her proclivity for tasteful, driven synths and disco provided a warm up to the Brothers’ eventual onslaught of sound. And where that type of ‘80s sonic euphoria goes, queer people follow. When I entered the venue, I was pleasantly struck by the number of queer people present in the crowd. The gays don’t just appear in droves for anyone (you need to prove your talent to us), and I loved seeing an act as unapologetically queer as Marea Stamper attract the same, fearless crowds. For her part, she looked thrilled, throwing her hands up whenever she got the chance to take them off her boards. That was not often, but crafting quality aural entertainment requires active hands.

Speaking of active hands, two gigantic, laser pink hands were one of the first visuals used at the start of the Chemical Brothers. Beginning with the Q-Tip-assisted “Go!” the duo played against an ever shifting backdrop of neon green lines and shapes. Humanoid figures and faces lived out their short-lived, repetitive lives behind the duo’s production space, which one figure appeared to dive into at the show’s onset.

From there, the Chemical Bros. reminded us of their extensive, 20+ year career by submerging us beneath it. After a few cuts from Born in the Echoes and No Geography, their latest, “Swoon” swept itself into the mix. This blast from the past opened a portal to the rest of history, which included famed hits of their own such as “Elektrobank” as well as a cover of New Order’s “Temptation.”

Visual elements accompanied each of these songs since neither of the Bros. does much more than whip their hands in the air–which is fine! Some elements, such as the neon computer face used in “Hey Boy Hey Girl,” felt like the standard tricks pulled at other electronic performances, Disclosure’s own imagery coming to mind. A group of dancers in suits resembling the wrinkles of a Shar Pei stood out with their fleshy rolls, and two gigantic, wind-up robots appeared for a brief but entertaining appearance. Honestly, the most stimulating props ended up being a set of giant balloons unleashed upon the audience. With the crowd moving such much already, the inflatables only added to the fun. The Shrine is not for every act, but for those with the wherewithal to fill it like the Chemical Brothers, possibilities present themselves.

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