By Hollister Dixon
Well over a decade – and six full-length records – on, London’s Hot Chip are one of the most consistent bands on the planet. Though their material isn’t always groundbreaking, it feels as though patience and love was put into the creation of each of their records. Though I didn’t give the band’s last album (In Our Heads) the time it deserved, I was more than happy to put their newest record, Why Make Sense?, on repeat since its release. As such, it made perfect sense to correct my long mistake of never seeing Hot Chip perform live, despite being hopelessly in love with them since The Warning was released nearly a decade ago. It was worth the wait. More on that in a minute, though.
I arrived with roughly 10 minutes remaining in Slow Magic‘s set, and though I wish I’d been there for more of it, I worry that the dose I got was just right. Slow Magic have a SBTRKT-lite feel, from the neo-tribal textures to the over-the-top LED mask (pictured here) the frontman was wearing. At one point, someone from the crowd wearing a less-intricate version of the frontman’s mask (possibly a member of the band? Were they selling these at the merch table?) came onstage to enthusiastically go to town on the floor tom next to the laptop/synth table, which was perhaps the most engaging part of their set. While a few moments got me moving, ultimately their sound isn’t anything truly special or unique, though they served as a nice icebreaker for the evening.
Then, looking as though they’d frantically replaced their clothes at a nearby Salvation Army after being robbed of the ones they’d been wearing before, Hot Chip took the stage. There’s no way around mentioning it: these guys looked goofy. The goofiest of the bunch is frontman Alexis Taylor, and I couldn’t tell if he looked goofier at the beginning of the show (in a massive button-up shirt and “Everything’s Better With Coke” pajama pants) or the midway point (where he shed the button-up to reveal a tanktop covered in cartoon dinosaurs), but there’s something to be said about a band who knows full well that they’re going to rock your face off, to the point where they’ve abandoned the need to look suave and slick. One of my companions for the evening, midway through their set, laughingly said it best: “You know, chances are, they started this band because they were hoping to get girls.”
Enough about their clothes, though, because ultimately they don’t matter all that much. What matters is the fact that they sounded spectacular. The Roseland is an extremely hit-or-miss venue (as I’ve pointed out before), but whoever was in charge of sound for that performance absolutely nailed it. From the beginning of Why Make Sense? opener “Huarache Lights” it was clear that the band have gotten to the point where they’ve turned live music into a science. The set’s biggest focus was on the new album, of course, but the remaining songs ping-ponged around the band’s other records (save for their oft-forgotten debut Coming On Strong). As a devotee to The Warning, the joy of seeing “Over and Over” in a crowd of equally apoplectic dance-pop nerds was pure exhiliration, and was undoubtedly the moment of the evening for me. Throughout the rest of the set, the band fused older songs with Why Make Sense? cuts to form seamless medleys (One Life Stand‘s “Alley Cats” flowing gently into “Cry For You” and “Need You Now” almost felt like they’d planned it five years ago), and packed the end with fan favorites (“Ready For the Floor” and “I Feel Better”). Before the night was over, they returned with an action-packed encore that featured “And I Was A Boy From School” and – and this is the part that still gets me – a blistering cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”.
Hot Chip live, I guess, are a lot like Hot Chip on record: Whenever I hear that there’s a new album coming, I think, “Great! Hot Chip are fun!” and by the time the album actually arrives, I find myself shamelessly in love with them all over again. Likewise, in the time leading up to seeing the band perform, I found myself similarly excited, but left the venue not just electrified, but a little mad that I’d have to wait awhile to get more. Few bands leave me feeling that way, so when I get it, I’m nothing short of elated.