When my brother’s not not writing professional articles for a world-leading energy industry publication, he uses his skill and command of the English language to write really interesting articles about music. This week he joined millions of others around the world to watch an online screening of ‘Don’t Think’, the new concert movie based on The Chemical Brothers’ famed live act, and took some time to put his thoughts down on paper. He is letting me publish it here. Click past the jump to read more.
The Bros take their live act to the big screen
By John-Laurent Tronche
Dance acts are at a disadvantage to guitar, bass, drum and singer acts when it comes to live performance. Whereas the latter, excluding the drummer, of course, can roam the stage and dance around and maybe even smash a guitar, the former spend their time hunched over keyboards (recently, computers) pressing buttons and twisting knobs. Recognizing the freedom of the “traditional” band and the necessary restriction on dance acts is what makes The Chemical Brothers one of the best live acts. They, like their peers The Prodigy and Daft Punk (and now Girl Talk and others), knew watching one or several guys stare downward would not compete with other live acts — they needed a visual component.
A new concert movie, “Don’t Think,” is The Brothers and their visuals partners, Adam Smith (also the director) and Marcus Lyall, putting on video the culmination of two decades of audio-visual harmony that rivals most and even bests some of those traditional live acts. Shot in July 2011 in Fuji, Japan, the roughly 90-minute movie is an absolute orgy of flashing lights and swirling colors washing over a sea of people, all set to equal parts pounding and dreamlike dance music. More or less, this is the movie, along with recurring scenes of a woman wearing a Steadicam that captures her experience in her facial expressions. As for those faces in the crowd, shooting a concert in Japan, where Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have always had a massive following, was a no-brainer: the concert-goers faces exude elation, fear, wonder, exhaustion, ecstasy (and maybe even Ecstasy).
And the music? It’s a solid set. From the latest album, “Swoon” works flawlessly in a live setting, and it’s improved as a lead-in to the classic “Star Guitar.” “Electronic Battle Weapon 8” (aka “Saturate” from 2006’s “We Are The Night”) combined with exploding balloons of paint and gigantic, inflatable balls get a massive reaction from the crowd, and a slow zoom-out at the tune’s end reveals the incredible scale of the Fuji show. A “Leave Home”/”Block Rockin’ Beats” medley serves as an appropriate-enough closer.
I suspect the actual concert was much longer; The Brothers only breeze through major hits “Out of Control” and “Setting Sun,” leave out much of the back catalogue and do a brilliantly creepy intro to “Electronic Battle Weapon 7” (aka “Acid Children”) but never delve into the actual tune, which has been a live staple since they wrote it in 2004. The visuals, while stunning, don’t make a heck of a lot of sense — dancing furniture, crawling cockroaches, marching wind-up robots, butterflies, birds, flashbulbs, hands climbing a ladder and, in a funny scene, a tiger. No, it doesn’t make sense, but the movie is called “Don’t Think,” after all. (The title actually comes from a discarded “Further” tune.)
After years of refusing to put a show on video, for fear it wouldn’t
do the live act justice, The Chemical Brothers have finally relented and must be pleased with the result.
Also for most of their career, Tom and Ed have fought the idea that somehow they aren’t a band. After all, they play instruments and perform live, too. But popular notion that a band has guitars prevails and without them, well, you’re just not a band.
“Fuck it,” The Brothers said. They are a band. And they are still going to dance around, taunt the crowd, nail a solo and do an encore. And, at the end for what has become a custom, they are going to destroy an instrument — in this case, turning a keyboard on its side and twisting knobs until the thing squelches and bleeps and screams itself to death.
What a show.