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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

Chemical Brothers @ London Olympia 08/08

An old review, but the best gig I’ve ever been to…

Take the most consistently present dance act the world has ever seen, add 10,000 revellers ages 14 to 60, mix in a hangar-like warehouse space the size of two football pitches, sprinkle festival strength strobes and lighting, together with animated, giddying graphics on a screen the size of two houses. Fold in a sound system made to induce ear bleeding and ’Dust’ the ‘Brothers’ on top – two unassuming sound boffins, with a talent for producing the most anthemic electro-hip-hop-big-beat soundtrack of many a hedonist’s life.

 

There was always a risk in ending The Chemical Brothers’ world tour with a show of such magnitude – it could result in a predictable hit-filled rout. And even though the big ones were far from thin on the ground at the London Olympia gig, instead of reeling the favourites off like a new year’s honours list, Tom and Ed methodically weaved each gem in and out of each other to create a tapestry wall of sound, so that it became new and exciting to the senses. This was an unexpected art which The Chemicals fittingly revealed on this, the first musical event to grace the gargantuan space since The Cure performed there in 1992.

 

The beginning of the whistle-stop adventure into the five albums was introduced with pops of sound, synth-esque squeals and a starry backdrop to light up ‘Galvanize’. The graphics were startlingly good and freakishly contorted clown faces appeared for ‘Do It Again’ and ‘Get Yourself High’ – as if the throng needed prompting – most were already surging on their own euphoric dance wave.

 

Two sets later and with ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Star Guitar’ and ‘Saturate’ added to the list, it was a defining occasion. The hairs on the neck were weary from standing up out of their recliners as the bass lines rumbled and The Chemical Brothers, from behind their stacks of knobs and decks did what they do best – building crescendos and dropping in melodic riffs just when you think the tension of waiting for the hook to kick in would make you burst.

 

Perhaps the most beautiful moment was when 40ft watery gymnasts floated and tumbled across the screen whilst ‘Surface To Air’ filled the domed rafters. Ed and Tom even had time to throw in a taster of their singles album, ‘Brotherhood’ – released on Monday, September 1 – with ‘Midnight Madness’, a melodic, beat filled beauty which deserved a more ecstatic reaction from the crowd than it got.

 

The encore unpacked ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ and although the last track, ‘The Pills Won’t Help You Now’ was unpredictable, a slightly more classic choice would have polished off an otherwise flawless experience.

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