If the music is a first rate, disco heavy, dance party by a great EDM duo, and the live performance just can’t push its way through and ignite, does that constitute a bad concert? Well, it sort of did for Chromeo and this despite a sold out Rumsey Playing Field being as attentive and loving as I have seen it this year.
Chromeo? You know em, the funky sex crazed dance band from Canada who brought you “Needy Girl” back in 2004 and broke pop with the excellent Fancy Work. This year they had a hit with the Hall & Oates influence “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” off the fabulous White Women. As noted by Victoria deSilvio in the New York Times, Chromeo are “David Macklovitch , a lanky half-Moroccan Ph.D. student of French literature at Columbia, and Patrick Gemayel, a meaty Lebanese accountant with gold teeth” and they are a full on, old fashioned disco band, singing about sex with girls on planes, high society dames, women of every type plus every dance of every type. In other words: sex, vertical and horizontal.
On a beautiful late summer evening and with an I’ve never seen it busier packed to overflowing playing field, this should have been a no brainer. But from the very beginning, an over long set from Big Freedia, the evening wasn’t quite clicking. I was thisclose to passing on Chromeo for John Cooper Clarke at Bowery Electric and Big Freedia, the New Orleans exponent of Bounce -a hip hop variant, was what took me in Central Park’s direction. On a stage filled with B-Boys tumbling and dancing, a chick wiggling her butt, a DJ and the irrepressible Big Freedia, it should have been a great set but the chants and beats got repetitive and with all respect to the great front man, I was ready from him to leave a good 15 minutes before he did. Still getting there was half the fun and a terrific “Let The Beat Go Boom” made the disco diva Queen of Bounce worth the effort of arriving earlier.
Big Freedia have the front man but not the sound for a long concert, Chromeo have the songs but not the front man. I caught David’s brother A-Trak at Terminal 5 (my review) and even DJing he had more stage presence than Dave does. The music, the songs, were uniformly excellent, opening with “Intro” (well, duh) and continuing through two sure shots, “Night By Night” and the epic (“whaaat”?) “Hot Mess”, the band were just fine, the sound all beats and melodies, Gemayel on vocoder and the audience on flames. But… Gemayel is a complete non issue on stage and Malkovich doesn’t make up the difference.
I was talking with a guy at the gig and he said “whatever, we are just here to have a good time” and I agree and Chromeo absolutely provided it on some level and to a degree, but part of the importance of going to concerts is the sense of uniqueness and also being manipulated, being turned on, and the best Dave can manage is to teach us how to clap our hands. The singalong to “Frequent flyer” is so bad I was little surprised at the incompetence. Holy Ghost, who are known to be taciturn working the same side of the street, connect better. LMFAO would blow em so far off stage it isn’t funny. They don’t even sell the superb “Sexy Socialite” -another surreal wonderful blast of sexy stubbornness. Another song so great there is never any question why these guys are so popular. But when Chic didn’t have an on stage presence, they hired a band. If you can’t use close circuit TV and you have no band, no nothing, with you, you better find some way to pull the audience forward and teaching us how to clap isn’t it, it is too amateur, it is too dowdy for what should be a sparkling rave up. A good light show can’t begin to substitute for a great presence.
The set closed with a terrific “Jealous (I Aint with It)” which had the audience in rapture. And the three song encore was the best moments of the evening, a heavy funk jam work out which proves what they can do when they want to.
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