Hot Chip, Brixton Academy, London

John Hall
Wednesday 12 November 2008 01:00

So nu-rave was a bit of a non-event in the end, wasn't it? It's been a few months since the genre that spawned a thousand luminous T-shirts seemingly dissolved in a Hadouken!-shaped mess on the floor and, other than a pair of broken white Ray Bans, what have we to show for it?

When they hit the musical mainstream late last year, Hot Chip were inevitably lumped in with the scene – their squelchy bass lines, dominant synths and penchant for the aforementioned eyewear saw to that. However, this particular brand of pigeonholing rarely sat all that comfortably with the pigeons themselves. Hot Chip fans saw their idols not as Klaxon-aping scenesters, but as the heirs to Prince, the Beach Boys or a slightly chirpier Radiohead.

So tonight at the Brixton Academy, it should come as no surprise that there isn't a glow-stick or luminous golf-visor in sight. Instead there are plenty of late-twenties media types and 5,000 people chomping at the bit to dance. Hot Chip take the stage bathed in a sea of golden lights and, after a collective bow, burst into euphoric recent single "One Pure Thought". The heavy beats, pseudo reggae toasting and staccato guitar lines are all new additions, swamping the song's fragile chorus with rhythm in a majestic, magical way.

Live, Hot Chip adapt their songs almost beyond recognition – twisting and pulling them apart, deconstructing everything from melodies to rhythm to tempo before reassembling the parts in an altogether different way.

Unfortunately, for every glorious twist to a hit that catches us off guard, Hot Chip appear intent on introspection. "Wrestlers" drags on eternally – a sprawling ballad which is used as a toilet break by some in the crowd.

This is a common problem for guitar bands dabbling in dance. While a mid-set mellow track may help the likes of Kings of Leon cool things down before another rockier number, doing the same with dance music often kills the atmosphere. Then again, focusing too heavily upon Hot Chip's flaws would be churlish. Even at the set's nadir, the expensive light show and balloons falling from the ceiling are wonderful, stadium-sized flourishes. On top of this, Hot Chip's performance is tight and well-rehearsed with guest drummer Leo Taylor particularly impressive.

All in all, Hot Chip's failings are, in an unexpected way, actually to their credit. Their commitment to experiment is a noble one and will doubtless lead to a wealth of boundary pushing in the future but here tonight, it simply comes across as indulgence.

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