Before proceeding with this review of last night’s Hot Chip show at MTelus, it should in all fairness be stated that I’m in no way what can be described as an enthusiast of the London, England synth-pop mainstays. And while that certainly doesn’t relegate my regard for the band to anything resembling active dislike, it perhaps doesn’t position me as a go-to critic for either their studio work or their live performance.
But since my colleague, an actual Hot Chip fan, was unable to attend the concert at the last minute, I decided to fill in for him in with the understanding that while I would likely not be blown away, neither would I have a bad time.
I quite enjoyed their 2015 Osheaga set, as a matter of fact, but only from a distance as I ate a meal far from their stage. I’d never even laid eyes on them, to my recollection, until last night. And with a seven-piece live formation — that’s two more members than form the band’s official roster, from what I gather — I can now say they’re quite the colourful cast of troubadours.
Maybe the 2006 music blogosphere already beat me to this observation but their Devo-ishness is apparent, and as the hour-and-a-half long affair played out, I’d draw comparisons to a few other acts, deciding at some point that they are the Dave Matthews Band of their genre, and not without a tinge of the ’80s version of the Beach Boys, either. Neither of these observations is meant disparagingly. Au contraire.
Actual Hot Chip fans are (as I had already somewhat realized) not exactly a glum lot, themselves. Hot Chip are the type of band their devotees count among their favourites, which was evident from the palpable excitement in the air at the near-capacity MTelus, with a crowd that was there for a Tuesday night dance party they’d clearly been looking forward to. “We haven’t played this room in some time,” frontman Alexis Taylor remarked early into the evening. “It’s good to be back.”
They didn’t have much else to say than a handful of “merci beaucoups” as the show progressed, but the voltage of their busy, dynamic stage persona, their tight entwinement as musicians and the sheer happiness of their disco-driven jams spoke for itself.
Whereas I am more inclined toward the emotive urgency of LCD Soundsystem or the Stones-y brashness of !!! where it concerns this flavour of dance rock, the sophistication of Hot Chip’s edge provides layerings of intricacy to what they do onstage, a result that feels simple, not cluttered — and that’s no mean feat given the amount of activity these seven players are putting on display both with sound and stage antics. Clap-alongs, sing-alongs and cheesy dance moves from the floor spiked the punch. Hot Chip remain what they have always seemed to be, from my outsider perspective: a fun band people love to love, and with good reason. Fans came out to play in noticeably large groups to share an experience. Friendship practically overwhelmed the room.
I’d only be rattling off a bunch of song titles I cribbed from recent set lists if I pretended to know what I was really hearing throughout the affair, but standout crowd-pleasers included songs “Night and Day” and “Spells.” A mid-show “WTF?” moment saw the band bust out a damn-near flawless cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” that should have been awkward but was instead perfect.
Encore set-closer “I Feel Better” did the trick, and its assertion that “Nothing is wasted/Life is worth living” summed up my sentiments quite well. As the tour continues, this is a show that won’t disappoint old-time aficionados and curiosity seekers alike. ■