Many bands spend years honing exact replicas of their studio songs for live concerts, precisely mimicking each chord progression and harmony. The result is audiences can explode into cheers of recognition during the first few seconds of each new song safe with the knowledge they know exactly what’s coming and that it’s going to sound just like it did on the album. Hot Chip on the other hand are a band whose album output and live shows are nearly at odds with each other. The catchy hypno-dance tracks that can shift from pulsing synthesizers to delicate pop aesthetics in the same song don’t at first seem like could fuel any sort of remotely intense performance but, as the band demonstrate in Manhattan’s Roseland Ballroom, they should never be underestimated.
Setting the tone by pulverizing their lackadaisical ‘How Do You Do It’ into a frenetic mash of beats complimented by lights and then using ‘Night and Day’ to lull the audience into a rhythmic trance meant that by the third track people were hysterically cheering even the most incomprehensible mumblings of Joe Goddard. While a lot of Hot Chip’s reputation for live concerts comes from their barnstorming slots at festivals, when confined to a decrepit ballroom bending with sweat and anticipation they know just to spin enough joy from repetitive beats to start a rave. The lightly inflating synth of ‘Flute’ is replaced by viciously hammering percussion while later during a euphoric encore a foreboding, almost Reznor-style pulse substitutes the soft steel drums of ‘I Feel Better’. But this is also tempered by quieter, more subdued moments on tracks like “And I Was A Boy From School’ and the sentimental closer ‘Let Me Be Him’ that leaves the audience demanding a second encore.
It sometimes feels as if Hot Chip are covering themselves, remixing their own tracks almost on the fly by gauging audience reaction. Although the clearly exhibited concentration (the band only ever seemed to look up from their instruments when they are swapping them for another) means that it’s more likely they focus just as much on their albums as they do prepping for their live shows it nevertheless creates an atmosphere of participation. Their ability to keep an audience spellbound rests in their capacity to play with their canon and surprise, substituting and redefining even their most recognisable tracks so that the end result is a rare live music treat; they are playing songs you know, just in a way you’ve never heard before that makes them even better.