The Chemical Brothers, Koko, London

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Despite being of a certain vintage, the Chemical Brothers are displaying great commitment to the thinning-of-thatch dance frontline. Long after the supposed demise of Nineties dance culture, and the actual demise of Orbital, the Chems' emphatically titled sixth album, this year's We Are the Night, charted at No 1. What's more, Chemical Ed Simons has even made a startling late debut in tabloid hell, due to three words of choice scuttlebutt: "Mr Lily Allen". Apologies to nu-rave, but the Brothers aren't working out retirement plans yet.

Tom (Rowlands) and Ed Chemical's continued virility is amply justified by this BBC Electric Proms gig. Blogosphere rumours that it would be a rare "Chems with vocalists" show prove unfounded, encores aside. Instead, a generational rave-off is staged: the hip Parisian beats-believers Justice support, boasting the distinction of being a – broadly speaking – nu-rave act who sound like wrinkly rave. They do a properly pounding warm-up job, but their none-more-black get-up is telling: they've got the beats, but lack the Chems' stylistic colour and rave-generating communal heat.

The Chems' grasp of crowd-pleasing occasion is evident: "Galvanise", their 2005 hit, starts the show, juggling blocks of beats towards inevitable, but always ecstatic, payoffs. After more than a decade of that tease-and-take-off formula, the Brothers have it down to a fine, multi-stranded art. On the screens behind them, cartoon fists punch the air; the crowd know the drill.

But this was no Chems' nostalgia act: the new material works up a real head of steam. "Burst Generator" and "Do It Again" fidget and drive with fluency.

The oldies pull their weight, mind. After a temperature-raising "Hey Boy, Hey Girl", the mid-section mashes up "Out of Control", "It Doesn't Matter" and "Star Guitar" in a rush of energy. Only the vocal-led encores feel uncertain. The Charlatans' Tim Burgess can't salvage "The Boxer", a weaker track from 2005's Push the Button album, while Beth Orton's morning-after anthem, "Where Do I Begin", is tender but drains.

The closing one-two wallop of "Leave Home" and "Block Rockin' Beats" brings out the Brothers' best. As lights and lasers go doolally, and "Love is all" flashes on the backing screens, Tom and Ed splash lurid sonic colours over brick-outhouse beats, consolidating their conceptual but visceral link between psychedelic-rock, house music's utopianism and rave culture's love-ins. There are no wrinkles on the formula. This generation-spanning music is ageless.

Comments