Greatest pop moment of the past decade? Beyonce Knowles descending a set of steps in her lame frock and heels looking her adoring Glastonbury 2011 crowd in the eye and kicking into Crazy in Love. This was a big deal. A black, female, dance act pitching her flag defiantly on the hallowed turf of those white boys with their now past their sell by date guitars. She followed with Single Ladies. A masterclass in making an entrance and the birth of the front-loaded festival set.
Hot Chip’s natural habitat these days is also the festival stages of Britain, Europe and beyond. This little jaunt around mid-size, clubby venues of the UK is a rare chance for their faithful to see the whites of their eyes. Venues have momentarily downsized but the setlist is defiantly festival shaped. Their opening roll of Huarache Lights, One Life Stand and Night & Day is quite a thing. Built to hit hard the back of the most distant and ambivalent field. In the more modest confines of the Academy it is as confident, jubilant and grab you by the lapels and listen a moment as you’re likely to find anywhere in this overcrowded marketplace.
They are God knows how long into their career now and most of you will know their shtick. Arch, knowing art school songwriting cuddled up with a run through a visit to all the memorable moments of electronic dance music of the past half-century. Huge slabs of classic house and garage, generous bursts of euphoric rave with dips back into disco and hip hop’s past as required.
Their material is hook-laden, immediate and accessible. There is not an inch of flab on these tunes. They’ve recently completed their Bikram thirty day challenge and haven’t touched a drop for even longer. It’s as if 10CC swiped right and are mildly surprised to find themselves opening their eyes to Georgio Moroder on the morning after. It’s all very smart.
They’re dressed in their Joan Miro stroke Jackson Pollock Jim Jams. Seven everydads with a whole host of vintage synths that they fixed up over the weekend away from their accountancy day jobs. They exude bonhomie. Groups tend not to look so pleased to see each other this long into their touring careers. The love spreads from the stage. When the house lights spring up after the dark of a breakdown in Over and Over to illuminate the audience the sheer feeling of shared joy is palpable. The communal euphoria of house music married to these positive tunes bringing optimism, but never naivety or cliché, to these troubled days.
There’s lots of bouncing (both on stage and off), some pretty naff dance moves, and we are rarely a moment from arms communally raised. The 30 and 40 olds in tonight’s audience are feeling that their babysitter money has been well spent. There are dancefloor hugs as the opening melodies of tunes are recognised and shared jubilation rarely seen outside a last minute winner on an away football terrace. This audience loves this band.
The setlist is finely paced. There is an inevitable dip after their opening burst as slower tempos and newer tunes add some light and shade. Their new material from A Bathful of Ecstacy shows no drop in quality and sits happily alongside the concluding home bankers, Over & Over and a reimagined Ready for the Floor.
They slow things down for Joe Goddard’s vocal on the lovely melody of the new Clear Blue Skies. A calm before the storm. A wild, uninhibited take on The Beastie’s Sabotage has every head violently banging. Limbs everywhere. Then home to the joyously familiar strains of I Feel Better. More hugging, more bouncing, every word yelled back. Quite a night. I’m off to my bathtub for a little lie down…
All photos by Phil Watson Photography, www.philwatsonphotography.uk
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