Usually when you go to a gig you get a bunch of nice memories that will flourish your enjoyment of the recorded songs in weeks and months to come. Apart from the live ‘experience’ you want to hear that favourite cut off their latest album loud, you want to hear what they’ll do with it in a live setting.
Usually it’s a beneficial relationship for all parties involved, but, as happened tonight, sometimes you get a live performance that reminds you how awful recorded can be in comparison to the real thing. Hot Chip achieved that. They killed their own albums.
Despite an unfortunate cloakroom queue that lead to me being in the unenviable position of hearing raucous cheering in response to an unrecognisable 4/4 thump whilst I was still holding my coat and then having that beat unveiled as the opening strains of the band’s best, indisputably classic song, Boy From School, Hot Chip were in superb form and my initial sulk at the venue’s incompetence, but then, more honestly, my own tardiness, soon faded.
The band are an incongruous bunch, that much has already been said and used as a ‘unique’ and ‘funny’ angle on them a thousand times, but witnessing them in the flesh you really come to realise it. The most extrovert aspect of Alexis Taylor this evening is the stunning blue/yellow colour clash of his outfit, which is either a staggeringly brave sartorial statement or a little-considered afterthought; the static figure he presents on stage, safely tucked away behind his keyboard, suggests the latter. The band face each other, looking inwards gently nodding away at their instruments like a more humanly flawed Mensch-Maschine. Such introversion is compensated for by guitarist Al Doyle’s role as master of ceremonies, introducing the cogs in the machine and sharing fun, in no way nerdy, titbits like ‘Thank God all those songs were in B-flat or I would have struggled’ – oh and the fact that their tight as fuck live.
Large reams of the new album get an airing, One Life Stand and Thieves In The Night already appear to be established as fan favourites, but even the more heartfelt, soulful and less danceable numbers are lapped up by an appreciative crowd when interspersed with the bangers (‘bangers’ in the most polite sense).
Tracks are mixed up a little, Over And Over gets a beefier, spikier opening to draw out the anticipation that is key to the track’s , everything sounds fuller and things just link and gel like they don’t on record; it’s not particularly an insult to their recording process, but more a compliment to their quality as live musicians and their ability to construct a well considered setlist that never ebbs.
The songs meld as if performed in medley – not a cheesy, Las Vegas style medley, perhaps more like an excellent dance mix. The constant House beat that underpins most of their tracks creates a constant groove that carries weaker songs and ensures the stronger ones are met with rapturous excitement. Hot Chip are a band that seem to churn out good to great albums, a start-to-finish classic album has always seemed to ellude them, but re-jigged, re-arranged and re-tooled in a live set and they create the perfect synthesis. The crowd love it and there’s a surprisingly amount of actual dancing going on, which is always nice to see.
All considered, I managed to leave the Brixton Academy feeling very satisfied – even after queuing for another 45 minutes to get my coat again. It’s just that I’m stuck with a bunch of Hot Chip mp3s that will serve as depressing reminders of the devastating superiority of seeing them live.