As a live band, Hot Chip just keep getting better. They've always been good, favoring playing everything live over laptops, but they've just really come into their own. "We've added a bass," Al Doyle announced as he held up the instrument to much whooping and hollering from the audience.
Tonight was one of two US show Hot chip were playing around the release of their third album, Made in the Dark, which hits stores Tuesday. They still look like the same dorky guys I first saw at Rothko four years ago, but clearly they are now a full-fledged band -- still making the same kind of music but in a way that is much more exciting to watch. Doyle played guitar or bass the entire time, as did frontman Alexis Taylor. Unless they were rocking the congas.
And they aren't beholden to the recorded versions. More often than not, the live versions of their songs are vastly different than the ones on their CDs. "Over and Over," which everyone should be thoroughly sick of by this point, has been kept fresh by ever-evolving arrangements. As has "Boy From School" which was stretched out to nearly ten minutes on Saturday. And the Made in the Dark's title track was turned into a feedback-laden wall of sound before calming to the gentle ballad it is on record. I think I can say this with some certainty -- Hot Chip are the best no-drummer live band going today.
The show wasn't perfect. I thought current single "Ready for the Floor" lacked oomph, and there was some miscommunication near the end of the set -- Al was ready to start the final song of the main set ("Don't Dance") when he realized he was the only one still out there. The audience seemed confused too, as the band never said that was it. And when the band came back for the encore we were shorted a song -- my favorite off the new album, "One Pure Thought." (Apparently, drum programmer Felix Martin was quite ill and didn't soundcheck with the band.) But the highs ("Touch Too Much," "Hold On," the R Kelly-esque slo-jam "Wrestlers") far outweighed the hiccups.
The Highline crowd, clearly in the mood to party, seemed of that opinion too, and just ate up the show. My friend Dorrit, who got elbowed in the face a few times (by the guy in the hat and black and while button-down, below), might disagree but this might be the best I've seen them, with the Seaport and March '06 Bowery show being a close second.
Setlist: Shake A Fist | Boy From School | Hold On | Wrestlers |Touch Too Much | Over and Over | We're Looking for a Lot of Love | Out at the Pictures | Bendable Poseable | Ready for the Floor ENCORE: Made in the Dark | No Fit State
MP3: Hot Chip - One Pure Thought
Though drink prices at Highline are insane ($10 for anything not rail), they have maybe the best sound system in town. Hot Chip sounded so good. I'll take this place over Webster Hall any day.
Also at the show: Brooklyn Vegan, Curtains On, and more as they show themselves. I've got more photos on my Flickr page, though Ryan Dombal got way, way better shots than I did. Here are a couple videos I shot:
Touch Too Much
Floorman has a couple nice edits he's done of "Hold On" and "A Was a Boy from School" over at his new blog. They're both pretty good.
Also, Joe Goddard was on Never Mind the Buzzcocks last week where he squared off against Lightspeed Champion. It's a funny one, though most of the jokes are at the expense of actor James Nesbitt: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Hot Chip return to the States in April, though unfortunately for New York they're playing the gigantic Terminal 5.
4/10/08 @ Starlight Ballroom in Philadelphia, PA
4/11/08 @ 9:30 Club in Washington, DC
4/12/08 @ Terminal 5 in New York, NY
4/14/08 @ Paradise in Boston, MA
4/17/08 @ Vic Theatre in Chicago, IL
4/18/08 @ First Avenue in Minneapolis, MN
4/22/08 @ Showbox in Seattle, WA
4/23/08 @ Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR
4/24/08 @ The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, CA