Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Don’t Hold Back

August 30, 2010

The Chemical Brothers on stage at the Hollywood Bowl Photo: mine 2010

Sunday was a chance to take stock of the more danceable corners of the electronic music world, which were on display at the Hollywood Bowl. The event was one of six “world music” programs put together by KCRW, but, as usual, some of these evenings take broad liberties with the “world music” title in an effort to include genres of music popular on the radio station. Sunday’s “world” consisted of Britain, Canada, and the U.S., but regardless of geography, the point of the show was electronica with headliners The Chemical Brothers who are currently touring in support of their latest release, Further. Before that piece of business, though, were two younger, more puckish, outfits: Yacht and Chromeo. Portland Oregon’s own Yacht started the evening off with a performance-oriented set complete with similarly uniformed dancers and band members all in black with large triangular white collars. The stylish front persons Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans delivered a brief theatrical set heavily reminiscent of Gary Numan, at least visually, but certainly with its own charms. This led nicely into the second slot on the bill, Montreal’s Chromeo. Unlike Yacht, Chromeo favors a more straight forward party atmosphere based in a early 1980s pop pastiche. But for all the Robert Palmer and Dire Straits references, the act owes far more to the Zapp Band and Roger than anybody else. It’s certainly a good time with Chromeo, if a familiar one. The performance of “Night By Night” which will lead off the forthcoming Business Casual was a highlight of the sly set.

But all of this seemed somewhat like kid gloves when the Chemical Brothers arrived on stage amidst the darkness that would frame them throughout their seamless dance set. Oh, there was a giant video screen with elaborate images, many of which accompany Further and come along with the download on iTunes. But The Chemical Brothers are about a unified experience that doesn’t focus on them as personalities, which only adds to the irony of a live "performance" from artists who rely heavily on synthetic and sometimes prerecorded elements. At just about two decades in the electronic music game, the duo has blazed enough trails for others to follow. Their music is no pastische or homage to a bygone era, but continues to push forward with big beats and high intensity. The evening drew primarily from the quite good recent release Further with a smattering of previous hits including “Setting Sun”, “Galvanize”, and “Star Guitar” among others. And while I’ve never been a big fan of “transcendence” or “transport” in the context of a musical performance, The Chemical Brothers produced one tight, admirable set on Sunday. And they threw quite a party while they were at it.


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