“Tour of the year?” Pitchfork presupposed upon announcing the co-headlining LCD Soundsystem/Hot Chip bill a couple months ago. Last night’s showing of the two dance giants did little to prove the conjecture false. If not the tour of the year, the performances at the very least packed a potent one-two pop-punch. Though the music might have fit better in a club setting, the sell-out crowd would never have fit in any venue smaller than the mighty chandelier-clad Fillmore Auditorium, and a sea of heads eventually flooded the ballroom, nearly all of them bobbing, bouncing and singing along to some of today’s hottest tunes to tread that precarious tightrope between pop and pulp.
But pulp, this surely was not. “The joy of repetition really is in you,” sang Alexis Taylor to his band Hot Chip’s stellar cut “Over and Over” toward the middle of their slot. But the group’s sonic diversity — in both its use of assorted percussive and harmonic textures, as well as mixing things up rhythmically — didn’t jive with this sentiment at all. This show saw the musicians venturing out from behind simple computer/keyboard setups, traveling from guitars to timbales, maracas to synthesizers, or drum set to steel drum kit. (The steel drum playing? Incredible, by the way.)
Hot Chip had a tropical flavor peppering its songs with drums dropping Soca patterns of Trinidad down deep in the pocket for the band to dance goofily around the stage to alongside its honeysuckle melodies. The vocals got off to a rocky start, but as the set progressed, Hot Chip looked and sounded increasingly comfortable with its nerdy self, despite a minor computer malfunction.
Then came James Murphy and his New York-bred LCD Soundsystem with a rougher-edged punk perspective to kind of stick it to the dweebier dance stylings of Hot Chip. And admittedly, the muscle made all the difference. LCD invaded the stage with an army of talent (one member of which was Hot Chip’s Al Doyle), and songs like “Drunk Girls” and “You Wanted a Hit” were delivered with burly fervor. Murphy led the way with astounding vocal confidence, flying high into fluttering vibrato or passionately blasting the mic as if he was ready to let his lungs loose altogether.
Guitars weren’t afraid to feed back, and crunchy bass synths were fat enough to fill up the lanes of I-25. But it was the drums that were at the band’s forefront. Drummer Pat Mahoney was stationed on Murphy’s left, chugging away at the hi-hat with the momentum of a freight train to keep the audience grooving. Flashing lights were superbly timed to the crash cymbal, and snare and bass hits were accented with pounding electronic triggers: Anything to make that beat just a little bigger.
Though the new record, “This is Happening,” is rock solid, that didn’t keep Murphy from busting out some of his career’s finest work, from LCD’s first single “Losing My Edge” to the classic “Daft Punk is Playing in My House” and “Sound of Silver” calling card “Someone Great.” These tunes proved to be the biggest crowd pleasers. The set was well rounded, excellently mixed and brilliantly performed, summing up a fabulous evening of modern pop.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.