Local Current Blog

Review and photos: Hot Chip bring a lot of heart to a sweaty dance floor at First Avenue

Hot Chip. (Photos by Maddy Fox for MPR)

Carb up before a Hot Chip show, because you’ll be burning calories on the dance floor. Clad in white-painted pantsuits, the quintet, increased to seven for their live show, turned on the fog and drum machines for their stage entrance that had the sweaty crowd cheering in anticipation for a party on Saturday night in First Avenue’s Mainroom.

As they opened with “Huarache Nights,” the audience shifted as one large mass, gyrating back and forth. Lead singer Alexis Taylor oscillated between the synths in the back of the stage and his spot at the front of the stage, using his mic as a conductor’s baton for the band and the room. Gratifyingly, their audience knows how to party while also respecting personal space. This sense of togetherness creates an inclusive atmosphere for all of their audience members, making it a safe space to let loose during songs like “Night & Day” and especially for “Ready For the Floor.”

The band didn’t inundate the crowd with new songs from their new album A Bath Full of Ecstasy, only pulling a few from the record released in April of this year. Midway in the set, Alexis announced their new track “Hungry Child.” The expanded jam session at the end segued into “Boy From School” and once again segued into “Spell,” affirming that Hot Chip know how to reinvent themselves while staying true to their eclectic electronic indie dance-pop sound.

Their encore came in with the low-key “Made In the Dark.” In the vein of Kraftwerk with traces of the Talking Heads, Hot Chip’s use of a vocoder was reminiscent of these early innovators. Bringing in some more influences, the band gave a little nod to Prince via “Irresistible Bitch” earlier in the set. Wanting to play something more positive, as Taylor declared, the band broke into the bright and airy “Positive,” before closing with “I Feel Better” from 2010’s One Life Stand as balloons flew through the audience.

While some of their songs may be dark, nothing is more affirming than when Taylor sings, “Nothing is wasted and life is worth living/ Heaven is nowhere, just look to the stars/ There is a day that is yours for embracing.” Not wanting the evening to end, the band invited everyone to stick around for another two hours for a DJ set once they cleared off the stage.

Nearly two decades into their career as a band, Hot Chip have never tried to sell out to the masses. Many people have heard the band’s name, but most have probably never heard a Hot Chip song. The secret of their longevity lies in their ability to create songs that seem almost too lightweight and raw, then swoop in with dense hooks and rock energy that lock you in. Their reimagination of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotoge” is the perfect example: they tear apart a classic song and piece it back together by making it bold and tough with a bubbly synth shimmer. If music is a war between the head and the heart, Hot Chip make a beeline for the heart.

Opener Holy F–k brought a lot of sound for two men with multiple channels of instruments and machines. Their syncopated beats were interspersed with sparse obscure vocals from Brian Borcherdt. While the lyrics were often lost amid the dense soundscapes, they weren’t as important as the feel and energy coming from the stage. The two invited Hot Chip’s Taylor to the stage for “Luxe,” a tune that subtly ingratiates itself, but knows it’s the life of the party. The song is an exploration of a fictitious world, dreamy and drenched in hypercolor. Delightful.

Holy F–k

Hot Chip