Thu 28 Feb – Hot Chip, Matthew Dear
I returned to the scene of my first ecstasy experience for some Hot Chip action last night.
The Corn Exchange in Brighton is like a scaled down, cosier version of Alexandra Palace -- long and thin with ornate windows and fancy ceilings. When I saw Orbital there in November 1994 for my epiphany, they'd built this scaffolding structure dripping with lights and technology in the middle of the room. The Hartnolls strolled in wearing those headlight specs and climbed into their control centre, from where they proceeded to rock my world to its absolute core and fundamentally change my perception of music, nights out and getting wasted. But I digress...
I'd not been back since that night so it was quite an emotional experience walking into the place. Matthew Dear and his band were on when we arrived and I kind of regret we weren't there earlier to catch the full set. I was expecting minimal techno but they were actually much more conventionally bandish, and very good too -- although I was amused at one point to note that, despite the impressive wall of sound coming from the stage, the three guys on it were actually just playing a bass and shaking two sets of maracas (albeit spangly high-tech ones). The unassuming little Mac laptop on the side was clearly doing most of the work.
Hot Chip came on to a slowly-building crescendo of noise and backlit drama. The scale of the sound had gone up considerably since MD's departure -- that heart-fluttering bass! -- and it was impossible not to feel a thrill of excitement as they walked on to the crowd's howled delight. The opera of their entrance served to underline their endearing geekiness..when the noise and the lightshow faded a bit, there they were - five of the unlikeliest heroes you can imagine: the geography teacher, the computer nerd, the bearded uncle, the Belgian and the 2nd division 80s popstar. Bless.
But fuck what they look like! Listen to them! Since I saw them 18 months or so ago they've got slicker, louder, more varied, more confident..just better. I remember being amazed by the scale of their sound last time -- particularly the phatness of the bass. This time I was swept away by their authenticity -- this is a proper band! -- and the joy it clearly gives them to be up there looking out on a frantically bouncing crowd. Their big songs are better known now and there was a huge swell of excitement for tunes like Over And Over and the irrepressible Ready For The Floor, which were both executed perfectly, both sending the crowd completely over the top (I looked around me during Ready For The Floor and saw nothing but huge grins and unselfconscious dancing...took me right back).
It wasn't perfect -- at times the magic disappeared and I was left looking at five geeks, lots of noise and a great lightshow. In particular they lost it a bit for me around the end, when they took us right down from an amazingly high plateau and then didn't really bring us fully back up again to go out on a high, but then they redeemed themselves with a seamless working in of bits of New Order's Temptation to their last number, which really worked.
Hot Chip won't break your legs, or snap off your head. But they'll bring a fucking big smile to your face and make you dance like a loon. And you can't say fairer than that :)