Rowlands and Simons, surrounded by a circle of keyboards, drum machines, laptops, and mixers, are difficult to distinguish as they perform on stage. Despite the dim lighting and dry ice, their actions are not easily discernible as they create the mesmerizing sound of a Chemical Brothers concert. They appear to be immersed in their work like ancient druids in a sacred stone circle, using their machines to weave their musical magic.
The two-hour show does not rely on their past successes, despite the fact that the duo is now in their early 50s. While the audience enthusiastically cheers for the familiar bassline of Block Rockin’ Beats, the most memorable moments actually come from less well-known songs and more complex emotions. Wide Open offers a mix of both euphoria and sorrow, while Goodbye combines acid gospel with bass-heavy beats that feel like CPR for the EDM genre. The sampled vocals add a touch of heartache to the overall experience.
The Chemical Brothers concert is not just a simple performance of music, but rather a theatrical experience where the songs come to life. It’s like comparing listening to a ballet’s score to actually watching “The Rite of Spring” being performed. The show’s designers, Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall, are like alchemists, turning sound into a visual spectacle. A massive LED screen displays films featuring a variety of eerie characters and creatures. The overall tone is often unsettling, especially in the song “Feels Like I Am Dreaming,” which is accompanied by a techno frenzy and a folk-horror themed video starring Benedict Wong. The trippy visuals constantly evolve from tour to tour. Those who fear clowns will be relieved to know that the creepy clown, a staple in Chemical Brothers shows for many years, has been retired and replaced by a blue-faced Satan.
The goal of this, according to Rowlands’ explanation in his new book about the band titled “Paused in Cosmic Reflection,” is to create a sense of overwhelming for the audience. And this is definitely achieved, especially during the final song, “The Private Psychedelic Reel.” The sitar melody and drum beats are rapturous and almost religious, accompanied by a fast-paced montage of medieval religious artwork. The guitar and vocalizations from “Sympathy for the Devil” are perfectly timed with the appearance of stained-glass demons on the screen – a deliberate detail that showcases the carefully choreographed awe of this performance.