Hot Chip is not LCD Soundsystem

By Mike Frash //

Hot Chip //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
September 11th, 2012 //

Hot Chip has been crowned the reigning king of the electronic/indie/dance scene since LCD Soundsystem hung it up.

There are many reasons this comparison is ever-present. They share a love of synth, dance beats, 70’s grooves and building a wall of sound with more musicians than the typical live act utilizes. These two groups refreshingly have delivered electronic dance music through live instruments — something lost to many electronic music performers in the year 2012. Al Doyle plays guitar, synthesizer, percussion, bass and performs backup vocals in Hot Chip. He literally did all that as a member of LCD Soundsystem, except he did not back up James Murphy on vocals. Both groups are loved by indie-rock and dance fans, and their music in a live setting uses percussion as a leading force to improvise and give concert goers that feeling of the unexpected.

Ultimately, the comparison falls short when it comes to vocals. James Murphy is the king of personality and one of the most charismatic frontmen in music history. Alexis Taylor simply is not. At times on Tuesday night at the Fox Theater, it was hard to find Taylor on stage. So in the end, the comparison is not really valid. That said, Taylor’s voice blends with the instruments more than Murphy’s voice, which often would contrast abrasively (and awesomely) to LCD’s instrumental sound. Taylor’s vocal style is rooted in R&B, while Murphy’s voice is somewhere between punk rock and David Byrne. But LCD is dead (for now) and Hot Chip is alive, so let’s enjoy what we have.

The first eight songs of the set had everyone moving. ‘Shake a Fist’ was an ideal opener, setting the tone with laser zap sounds & visuals that must have caused at least one minor seizure. The following four songs probably sounded like one epically long jam to anyone in attendance that isn’t familiar with the Hot Chip catalog. “Boy From School”, “Don’t Deny your Heart”, “One Life Stand” and “Night & Day” are tracks that employ a steady 128 beats per minute. The songs segued one into the other, allowing no time for resting.

“Night & Day” gave way to “Flutes,” the best track from Hot Chip’s new album, In Our Heads, which the band is currently touring to support. The one-two punch of ‘Flutes’ into fan favorite “Over & Over” was a clear highlight of the night for many in attendance. These two songs slowed down the tempo from the previous bunch of songs, but at the same time, the energy in the room picked up.

The following two songs, “These Chains” and “The Warning”, slowed things down to a halt. This mid show lull actually worked nicely to split the show in half between the first part, full of dancy hits, and the second part of the show, which provided songs that peaked harder and provided a bit more improvisation than the first set.

Watch part of “How Do You Do” shot by Kevin Raos.

“How Do You Do” and “Ready for the Floor” set up the second half of the show for success. The group then covered Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere”. This was a lovely song to cover, as Taylor’s voice mirrors the vocal range and pitch of Christine McVie’s voice nicely. “Hold On” ended the first set with an epic climax, book-ending the set with extended songs that peaked with rapid strobe lights and lazer beams.

The encore began with a rarity, as “Crap Kraft Dinner” was played for the first time in four years. This bust out was a set-up song for the final tune of the night, “I Feel Better”. When Taylor crooned “This is the longest night,” it seemed like the encore might continue on for a bit. But that was it, and once it was over, the show felt short.

Bottom Line: Hot Chip is a guaranteed dance party if that’s what you’re looking for. The drum and bass elements drive the group’s sound in a live setting, making Alexis Taylor’s vocals seem secondary.

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