Live Review: Chromeo, Holy Ghost!, Telephoned @ Showbox at the Market 8/12

All photographs by Matthew Roddy

One of the smartest things they teach you at the Institute for International Rockstar Studies is that the easiest and best way to ensure that your fans repeatedly sing your name in unison while waiting for you to come on stage is to actually write a ridiculously catchy looped vocal melody and play it for them to sing along to. Repeatedly. In unison.

And Chromeo have done just that. Way before they’re due on stage tonight, the Showbox at the Market crowd is passionately chanting “Chro-me-o, ohhh, ohh! Chro-me-o, ohhh, ohh!” at a volume usually reserved for alerting passenger ferries.

Abandoned Moog keyboards with giant walls of knobs, dials, and switches patiently wait in an emerald light on the dark stage, resembling an alien lab in a 1960s science fiction film. Suddenly we’re broadsided by a juggernaut of bass drum hip hop swagger from the speakers and blinded by the fierce beam of rows upon rows of bright halogen lights and blazing strobes from the stage as Chromeo climb aboard and the show explodes into life as a Martian voice sings “Don’t stop baby, let the music take your body” and set opener and brand new song “I’m Not Contagious” immediately has everybody dancing.

Describing themselves as the most successful Arab-Israeli partnership of all time, Chromeo is guitarist and singer David “Dave 1″ Macklovitch and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel on keyboards and talk box.

With his dark coiffured hair, tight black leather jacket and white t-shirt, Dave 1 resembles an Israeli Fonz in Wayfarers with ten day stubble. Wielding a shiny black Gibson Les Paul with a black and white checked disco guitar strap, he starts to bang out a riff laden with so much funk it sounds like a cartoon pogostick.

His partner-in-lime, P-Thugg sports a green baseball cap and a light yellow-green plaid shirt with a white t-shirt and gold chain, and is surrounded on every side by synthesizers and glam electro funk-inducing gadgets.

Both stand in front of Chromeo’s signature keyboards held up by a glowing pair of lit, red high-heeled female legs, resembling what Yamaha pianos would look like had they outsourced their construction to Las Vegas.

“We’re from Montreal, Canada,” Macklovitch says over screams as he grabs the mic, “and over there we don’t say cream puff… or girlfriend… we just say…” stopping just in time to trigger the spoken “Tenderoni” sample to introduce their hit song of the same name, to which the audience goes completely bananas.

By this point the excited crowd are jumping as one and rebounding en masse off the dancefloor to Chromeo’s cowbell-heavy, slap bass, synthy disco hit and even the mics, drumkit and keyboards on stage are uncontrollably wobbling along as a result. Tonight, even inanimate objects can’t resist the urge to dance.

The crowd then claps along to “Call Me Up” as P-Thugg turns his cap backwards and tinkers along on the drumkit before setting loose the jaunty, desperate funk of “Opening Up.”

“I remember when we came to Seattle five years ago,” Dave 1 says, “and played to five people at Chop Suey. This next song is for everyone that’s been down with Chromeo since day one.” He then struts across the stage as P-Thugg dons a bass guitar and they rock out standing back to back like veteran stadium rock legends to the flashing lights and relentless, shiny waxed drums of “Needy Girl.”

“Bonafide Lovin’,” new song “Hot Mess,” the “Money For Nothing” riff by Dire Straits, and a wailing 80s extended sax solo sample all follow, but it’s the subsequent electrofunk bombardment of hits “Don’t Turn The Lights On,” “Night By Night,” “Fancy Footwork” and “Momma’s Boy” that really works the crowd into a sweaty, disco frenzy. A final blast of strobe then permanently etches its memory on our retinas in sync with a final synth stab and Chromeo leave the stage, but the crowd doesn’t waste any time in starting to chant for more.

The encore sees Dave 1 and P-Thugg mellow out the evening’s proceedings with their cover of The Eagles’ “I Can’t Tell You Why,” which was featured on their DJ-Kicks compilation album. It’s a definite departure into heartfelt talk box ballad territory that sounds like a hopelessly romantic teenage android whose voice hasn’t yet broken serenading his cyborg sweetheart over Skype. As the song draws to a close, Dave 1 hoists his guitar in the air and shouts, “You’re beautiful Seattle!” The thunderous applause and cheers that greet him in reply would suggest that Seattle’s feeling is more than mutual.

In support were Brooklyn’s gentlemen DFA disco synthers Holy Ghost! who start their set with the hushed falsetto of current hit “Say My Name.” Lead singer Alex Frankel, clad in a red and black checked shirt and skinny jeans, looks intent on destroying his cowbell as he pounds along to new song ‘It’s Not Over’.

“There’s the clap!” Frankel then says as a gigantic snare hit shoots out of the speakers and slaps us around the face so loud it’s as if our cheeks were made of bubble-wrap as ‘I Will Come Back’ from their recently released Static On The Wire EP announces its arrival.

The band’s rhythm accelerates throughout their show, ending with an incredibly tight combination of uptempo live and programmed satin house beats that are so polished you can clearly see your happily beaming reflection in them.

Also in support were the undeniably fun antics of Telephoned, a peak-time, party-time all-the-time live dance cover and mash-up duo from New York City. Comprised of DJ/producer Sammy Bananas (officially one of the greatest monikers in music) wearing a gray suit with a thin black tie and orange Ray-Bans, and singer Maggie Horn wearing a short, spangly black dress with stilettos, the party-starters race us through their banging house versions and blazing hip hop fusions of “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats, “Don’t Go” by Awesome 3, “aNYway” by Duck Sauce, and Adam F’s liquid d’n’b staple “Circles” with Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” sung over the top. This is followed by a blast of early 90s blistering ruffneck jungle that even Mr Bananas acknowledges it’s a bit early in the evening for. But this is certified dancefloor igniters Telephoned’s secret weapon: warming up the crowd at 9pm in a way that seconds later feels like the main room of an Ibiza club at 2am.

One costume change later sees Maggie Horn stroll back onstage in a white blouse, secretary skirt, glasses, and waving a Japanese paper fan. “This is Business Casual,” she announces, and as it’s the title of Chromeo’s new album, proceeds to honor tonight’s headliners by covering “Night By Night.”

Telephoned’s set ends with a Kraftwerk-inspired song featuring Sammy and Maggie at the front of the stage, both in sunglasses and standing stock still, reciting lines about the “dancefloors we’ve danced” (Tokyo, Sydney, Hollywood, and Mars included) with electronic, disinterested precision. The audience loves it and as they leave the stage to a simple dial-tone, I think of cleverly writing the line “Telephoned are literally off the hook!” to end this review only to later find out that the same line has been used by everyone and anyone who’s ever written anything about the duo countless times before.

High: Chro-me-o, ohhh, ohh! Let’s face it, the entire set was gold. No matter what music you’re into, whether it’s Motley Crue or Beyonce, it’s impossible for your eyes, ears, head, heart, and feet not to love Chromeo.

Low: Finding out that even though Chromeo’s huge shiny handclaps in their songs make their stage lights flash, it doesn’t actually mean that your house lights will flash when you clap your hands. You still have to use the switch.

In a Tweet: Prince, MJ, Hall & Oates and the best of 80s pop spliced, diced and sauteed in a way that isn’t affected or ironic, just insanely good fun.

Did you experience the Chromeo live show magic last Thursday? What was your highlight? The best song of the evening? What did you think of Holy Ghost! and Telephoned? Have you managed to stop dancing yet? Let KEXP know in the Comments section below!

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One Comment

  1. Cady Bogart
    Posted August 17, 2010 at 1:17 am | Permalink

    This was by far the best show ive been to! (and the sweatiest). Its been 5 days and i still cant stop thinking about it! we were literally RIGHT in front of P-Thugg screaming in his face. Im just afraid nothing will ever top it!

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