Hot Chip, The Vic Theater, Chicago, 4/17/08
review and photos by Gina Pantone
Metallic spandex and hot pink leotards were plentiful at Chicago’s Vic Theater last Thursday. Kids from all walks of town lined the street in their Olivia Newton John-best for a sold out evening with London’s palest electropop soul brothers, Hot Chip.
Dressed in Don Johnson white, singer/multi-instrumentalist Alexis Taylor led his band onstage single file in an aural wave of droning keyboard A band where synthesizers almost outnumber its members, Hot Chip immediately started off with their latest Made in the Dark material, the riled up “Shake a Fist.” Maintaining a classy countenance, Taylor casually pounded on his mini-bongos — enclosed in a circle of his own musical devices — barely breaking a sweat.
Without as much as word to their adoring crowd, they began fan favorite, “Boy From School” from 2006’s The Warning. Arguably one of Hot Chip’s most moving tracks, Taylor began its instantly recognizable melody to a line from Peter Gabriel’s romantic “Your Eyes.” His voice soared as he sang, “When I want to run away, I drive off in my car.”
The draw to Hot Chip is that they’re unabashedly modest. Each member has a spotlight — beaming them up like Star Trek cast members — and remain in their designated areas, only venturing out for special occasions. Not to say the band has banal tendencies, for it is quite the opposite. Less is more here. Though their music is highly energetic and, at times, the embodiment of a dance party, Hot Chip keeps their composure. They reserve their spasms for compositional climaxes, as if not to cheapen their performance with unnecessary enthusiasm when the music speaks for itself.
Particularly charismatic is fellow vocalist/synth player Joe Goddard. He slouches behind his tiny keyboard, lending his boisterous voice to counter Taylor’s smooth tones. This combination fused together perfectly in the evening’s best moment, the underappreciated Made in the Dark highlight “Bendable Poseable.” Goddard growls the title over and over again as Taylor channeled Les Claypool on his bass for the quirky nature of the track. Strobe lights flickered over the hyper crowd as the controlled chaos winded down for the synth outro.
By mid-set, Hot Chip blew through their most anticipated tunes. 2006 single “Over and Over” and Made in the Dark opener “Out and the Pictures” created an expected frenzied audience, with Taylor stretching out the intros and beat breaks while guitarist Al Doyle dove into his onlookers after a feedback solo. Goddard rapped until his face flushed with red pigment on “Wrestlers,” and closed the set with a refreshingly harder version of “Ready for the Floor.”
Riddled with slow jams, the encore was a bit underwhelming — despite an impressive performance of “No Fit State.” Though it would have been ideal to save some definitive songs for the end, the crowd was in awe and yearning for more — tight pants and all.