Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Chromeo Frequent Flyer Tour Review

Chromeo’s Frequent Flyer tour landed in Asheville, NC on October 2nd 2014, bestowing a heavy dose of FUNK on all that were there.  The Funkloardz came out in full force and left the Orange Peel scorched from their blistering performance.  I’ve watched a lot of Chromeo performances on YouTube so I was coming in with high expectations, but I had no idea how mind-blowing the performance would be.  All I can say is that I left with a crater between my shoulders. 

I showed up fairly early to ensure a spot at the front of the stage.  (BTW - you know it's going to be a great show when you see signs plastered all over the place saying something to the effect of, "Warning Strobes Used Heavily During The Show")  Being about the 10th person in line, it was no problem getting up front.  Once my ticket was scanned and I was able to get to the stage, everyone was crammed on Dave 1’s side of the stage, which was fine with me because that left a gaping hole right in front of Pee Thugg’s rig of synth juiciness.

Warm up

Over the years it’s become second nature to me to have an ear tuned to the music that is playing while the crowd is funneling in and waiting for the band.  I’ve never had such an incredible connection to the music playing over the loud speakers like I did at this concert.  It was literally a mirror copy of my Pandora Chromeo channel that I’ve built over the last few years.  It was eerie.  When I walked in, Ray Parker Jr “For Those Who Like To Groove” was jamming over the PA.  Being the music nerd that I am, I look at this group of kids next to me and say something about Ray Parker…only to be met with crickets.  Anyway, this is an important, overlooked element to a concert that most people miss.  I’ve always felt like if I were in a band, I would put a lot of time and effort into the playlist before and after the show for my fans and Chromeo does not disappoint here.   Some of the other notable tunes we were jamming to before the concert were: Evelyn Champagne King “I’m In Love, Mary Jane Girls “In My House”, Midnight Star “No Parking On The Dance Floor”, Klymaxx “Meeting In The Ladies Room”– it was all there – and it set the mood beautifully.  I mean, how can you not be ready for Chromeo to come out after you’ve just been boogying to "Bad Mama Jama"???

Wave racer came on sometime after nine o’clock or so and really left much to be desired.  For the powerhouse that Chromeo is, I was a bit surprised by this pick for an opening act.  To me, a supporting act is there to engage the crowd and warm them up for the headliner.  I don’t think Wave Racer looked up at the crowd but 3 or 4 times through his set.  He mostly just danced up there while he was triggering everything, looking down at his gear and waving his arms to the drumbeats.  His set lacked any real variety for my taste…his music all seemed to melt together into one song that would go from the edge of dubstep to typical remix type stuff.  Looking back at the crowd, I tried to gauge whether they were digging him or not, and it seemed to be hit or miss, but the crowd was more than generous and polite with applause at the right times.  To sum it up – Wave Racer’s performance didn’t inspire me to want to buy his music or read up on him when I got home and was a bit of a disappointment.

After Wave Racer finished his set, the music coming over the PA picked up in pace while the crew tore down his gear and started prepping Chromeo’s setup.  There’s nothing more exciting than the eagerness that sets in as you watch the crew tear down the opening act’s gear and perform that one last sound check for the headliner.  You know it’s close to go-time and the element of anticipation just jacks you up.  The crew left a couple of black sheets over the portion of Dave 1 and Pee’s rig that faced the audience.  I’d never seen that before and now that I think about it – it left a nice little element of suspense.

When the lights finally went dark it was fantastic.  Members of the crew walked on stage and plucked the 2 remaining black sheets to reveal the final pieces of the rigs – which left the two complete setups standing there in front of giant mirrors.  The smoke machines had been running so the ambience that was created was spot on for the show.  On one side you have Dave 1’s rig with his mic stand, lap top, Chrome plated synth, etc. and on the other you have Pee’s rig – complete with three legs of a square full of synths with the focal actually being the Synthesizers.com system he has facing the crowd (his back is facing the crowd when he plays it) all with the backdrop of some giant mirrors.  I felt like I was looking at the set of Solid Gold or something!  

There is something so sexy about the blinking lights on the .com synth that screams for your attention – it’s tough to explain unless you see it live.  You may not be into synthesizers or even know what one is – but when you see the red LEDs blinking all over the modular synth it just sucks you in and hypnotizes you; it’s a wicked visual effect – and with the chrome set up it just magnifies the coolness by a thousand percent.  If you’ve ever seen Emerson, Lake, and Palmer live (Or just Keith Emerson’s Moog in the flesh) – you know what I’m talking about.  It’s absolutely magical, leaving you in synth ecstasy as you are sucked in to all of the blinking lights, sea of knobs, and wires.  Pee’s system obviously isn’t as massive as Keith’s, but the .com system 22 does the job.  The blinking lights of the oscillators and envelopes added such a dramatic effect as everything sat there in the dark – it was just wicked.  BRAVO boys.

After you’re left all giddy looking at synth heaven blinking at you under darkness, the light show starts to a storm sound track.  The moment it starts – you’re done.  You know right then and there it’s going to be a kick ass show.  If you’re not grinning ear to ear after that starts, there is something wrong with you.  It’s tough to describe the feeling once you see that, but Chromeo basically owns you at that point until the end of the show.   Score one more for the Montreal duo.

The Show

Before I get into the setlist highlights, one thing I think is important to point out is how amazing the actual performance is.  Forget the music for one second and just concentrate on the actual show – because that is what Dave and Pee give you, a freakin’ show.  Their chemistry can be seen a mile away, they’re professional, WELL REHEARSED, and man, can they control a crowd.  I can only imagine the amount of work that has gone into the show because they make everything look so effortless.  Chromeo has not forgotten that you paid your hard earned money to be there and they deliver every penny’s worth...and then some.

The Gear

This was an analog lover’s dream.  It’s not often that you get to see a modular synth (A synth where you actually have to use patch points to make a sound) so I have to give Pee Thugg much credit for bringing that beast on the road.  You just can’t dial up sounds with stored patches on that thing – so I appreciate the effort of programming patches that are manageable to switch back and forth to on that system.   Dave 1 had a Korg MS 20 that he used on “Sexy Socialite and that’s all I could make out on his side of the stage.  Rounding out Pee’s rig was a Minimoog Voyager (Analog), Yamaha DX100 used to drive the tone for the Talkbox, and a Nord with something triggering samples sitting on top.  With regards to Pee’s Synthesizers.com system, there were a few modules I couldn’t find online like one with the Key (A, E, D) displayed at the top of the module – other than that it seemed to be the standard system 22 (Possibly set up with a duophonic patch because I saw him playing two notes at a time on a song).
The Setlist / Highlights

The set list included everything from old to new and everything in between – any Chromeo fan wouldn’t be disappointed by the setlist.  Some of the highlights for me were:


This song epitomizes the dynamic element that Chromeo brings to the show.  Just about midway through the song they add a filter to the backing track so it sounds like there are giant pillows over the PA speakers – and then they remove it and the song just hits you like a ton of bricks with so much energy.  It’s one of the many wow moments in the concert for me.  It brought a huge smile to my face - I love the detail here by the guys.
“Sexy Socialite”

For me, one of the best songs of the night because…a.) I love this song and b.) They brought the synths out in full force on this one.  When the song goes into the break right before the rap Dave 1 and Pee turn their backs to each other and start rocking on their respective synths.  (Dave on a Korg MS 20 and Pee on his Minimoog).  When Dave hits the bass notes and Pee Plays his bit you suddenly feel something you hadn’t throughout the concert and it was glorious.  It’s a prime example once again on how you can literally FEEL the difference between samples, tracks, virtual analog, and real analog synths.  I literally stuck my arms out as if I was feeling the first rays of light from the sun in the morning – as said above…it was glorious.  I know that sounds nerdy, but again, it creates this dynamic element in the show that adds another layer of depth to the performance as you feel the contrast from the backing tracks and the analog bass.  I don’t expect most people to notice it, but for those of us that do…Thank you.

“Jealous (I Ain’t With It)”

You know you have a hit on your hands when everyone in the crowd has their arms out and first two fingers up, as Dave is about to sing, “Back in 2011….”.  The crowd went nuts over this one as expected.

“Over Your Shoulder”

They really set the mood here by changing the color of the stage from white to red on this song.  This song screams 70’s laid-back funk and they colored the stage to paint the picture perfectly.  Check off another element to the show, adding another layer of depth.  Dave asks all the ladies to get up on a guy’s shoulders for this song.  Security was freaking out and telling everyone to get down.  It’s here though, where Chromeo puts on a clinic on how to cement rapport with the crowd.  If Dave didn’t already have the crowd in his hands, he did after this.  Dave yells at security saying “This is MY show don’t tell them to get down.”  Then yells out to the crowd, “Don’t listen to them – get back up - you’re not going to get into trouble...”  What a way to get the crowd on your side.
“Frequent Flyer”

Once again you have Dave leading the audience, giving them instruction to participate by screaming, “Higher, higher” and pumping their fists.  I love how interactive he was with the audience; it makes for a really enjoyable experience.

“Mammas Boy”

Pee Thugg starts this song off without the backing track and is playing the Wurli part with Dave singing over him with no backing track.  The thing I noticed is that Pee hurried the pace of the song without the track, but once the track kicked in, the song settled back into its grove.  The reason they start without the backing track is that they keep stopping and working the crowd over getting them to scream and cheer before they start in with a verse.  They do this a couple of times before the track kicks in – but it highlights another prime example of their ability to engage and work the crowd.

The Magic Of Chromeo

Plain and simple the magic of Chromeo resides in their ability to own a room.  I mean really own it.  They are true maestros conducting the crowd to engage in their every wish.  Any band that wants an object lesson on how to work a crowd over should go see a Chromeo concert.  Between all of the different dynamic elements of sight, sound, and the physical experience of analog vibrating through your body – Dave 1 and Pee Thugg will blow your head off.

Time and time again with great bands I always find that videos, or even CDs can’t quite capture the magic of actually being at a live performance.  Chromeo is no exception to the rule.  These guys are absolute pros and their show is a well-oiled machine.  You could take someone who has never heard of Chromeo to this concert and they will be entertained.  Again – even if they don’t like the music, they will be entertained by the show that is put on by Chromeo.  Not many bands can do that.  At around $30, this is the BEST value for the money of any show I’ve seen in a while.  Do yourself a favor, if you’re into having a great time and dancing your ass off, buy a ticket to a Chromeo show before they are sold out in your area.

Thanks for Reading

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