Thursday, June 21, 2007

Live Review: Hot Chip w/ Tortoise (Better Later Than Never, Right?)

June 16, 2007

Granada Theater

Lawrence, KS

Last Saturday's co-headlining show was one that I had marked on my calendar for quite some time, though I must admit mainly because of Tortoise. I'm by no means a Tortoise superfan, but I do enjoy their music immensely when I'm in the mood, and really enjoyed their brief set at 2005's Austin City Limits Festival. I should also admit that I was a little upset to find out Hot Chip was headlining the show. To me, Hot Chip seemed like a flash in the pan compared to Tortoise, who not only have longevity on their side but a legitimate claim to having spearheaded the genre of post-rock (even if that genre has expanded so much it has rendered the term "post-rock" meaningless), not to mention their skill as actual musicians would surely overshadow a bunch of synth-poppers, right? The night before the show I forced myself to listen to Hot Chip's latest album The Warning at my friend and fellow blogger Nicole's house, and though I liked the album I was still not expecting to be blown away come show time. So, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, I was blown away. Little did I know that these 5 nerdy looking Brits would put on the year's hottest concert both literally and figuratively.

Tortoise was already playing when we arrived. I couldn't tell you what song for sure, again, I'm no super-fan, but I do know that the set featured a fairly healthy mix of songs old and newer. The band is not exactly the most exciting to watch. They do provide a screen with visual imagery, but honestly even the visuals were a little boring. The excitement from seeing Tortoise live is getting to hear a great band play a tight set that blends rock, jazz, fusion, funk, and ambient sounds, often times in one song.

The band constructed their set perfectly, loading the front part of their hour-and-a-half set with longer, slower building songs that crescendo late, if at all, which created some tension as the audience (most of whom were eager to dance to the night's headliner, mind you) applauded politely but secretly craved something a little more exciting. The band built on this tension by working in songs that take their time to building to a crescendo before relaxing again, which satisfied the audience some, but clearly there were others who wanted a little more punch and a quicker resolution. Tortoise answered by finishing the set off with a few rock songs. These songs would build early and remain intense throughout. Since the Tortoise's rock songs are much shorter than their others, they were able to play several in a row which worked the crowd up to a near frenzy. Tortoise finished their set, but much to my surprise they came out for an encore, a rarity even for co-headlining tours (or at least the ones I've been to), and focused again on some of the more ambient-rock and and fusion songs. Overall, I was incredibly impressed with their performance. Because of the Granada's small size I was able to see the band better than the last time. Even though they're by no means exciting to watch, it is still a treat to witness five incredible musicians all playing together, especially when there's dueling vibraphones.

As for Hot Chip, I don't have anything poignant to say about their set - Hell, I really only know two of their songs well - but that doesn't mean I don't have anything nice to say. One thing that is certain is that I was more than pleasantly surprised when, a few minutes into the first song, I found myself dancing like a fool in a sea of sweaty boys and girls. This really is no minor feat either, considering one of the air conditioners was broken that night (as if they would use it anyway, cheapskates!) and the temperature inside of the Granada was something comparable to the outer rim of the sun, or an oven at the very least.

Like Tortoise, Hot Chip also constructed their set perfectly. Each song would build on the energy created by the one preceding it, which created a pulse in the Granada that intensified throughout the entire venue before culminating and hour later with their "hit" song "Over and Over", which was anything but laid back despite Alexis Taylor's repeating of the phrase. I've been to Faint and Rapture shows that were tamer than the dance-pit during Hot Chip. I will admit that after "Over and Over" I lost a little bit of interest. "Over and Over" may not be their best song on record, but it sure as shit killed live. Though I'm sure it will pain some people to read it, I have to say that there really was no topping that song. Fortunately, this gave Girlfriend and I an opportunity to try and check on poor ailing Nicole, and rest my weary feet after a long day of working and dancing.

Despite the post-hit comedown, seeing Hot Chip completely changed my opinion of the band. I still might not enjoy their albums as much as some other people, but any band that can make me bust a move for at least an hour straight in that kind of heat deserves at least some credit. Way to go Hot Chip! Way to go.

But seriously, this was one of the best shows I've been to in quite some time. Perhaps it is because I was so pleasantly surprised, but in honesty I think its a testament to how Tortoise, and especially Hot Chip, have the ability to do their thing incredibly well in a live setting. Like I said at the beginning of the review, this was easily the best show I've seen so far this year.

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