Hot Chip don't look like the kind of band that have been together for ten years – despite the continual rise in popularity, they've not so much smartened up but dressed down with each passing release. They could quite easily blend in with other locals at a nearby pub without anyone noticing.
Put them onstage though and it's a different story. This is the second of two nights at the O2 Academy, Brixton, a venue that has essentially become their house venue in recent years. As such, this sold-out show has the feel of a house party, albeit for a few thousand Friday night revellers. Needless to say, everyone involved is up for it, including the people in seating upstairs who dance their way throughout with reckless abandon.
A lot of the small things that make their songs on record charming and idiosyncratic are phased out almost entirely. Now fleshed out to a septet, the cacophony of synths, beats, percussion and guitars is loud and brash. Bookish and serious, this ain't. There's a twenty minute passage in the setlist that illustrates this perfectly. The thrilling 'One Life Stand' turns into the highly enjoyable 'Night and Day' and is followed by 'Flutes', which is the sound of a band at the peak of their creative powers. The only thing that could follow that is the barnstorming 'Over and Over', which threatens to tear the roof off the building.
With five albums worth of material to pick from, Hot Chip's live show has reached a point where the knockout blows just seem to keep on coming. However, it's the tracks from 'In Our Heads', arguably their best work since their breakthrough 'The Warning', that have the edge over everything else due to the fact that they sound huge. The pop hooks of 'Don't Deny Your Heart' and 'How Do You Do?' are given extra muscle live whilst 'Let Me Be Him' is euphoric and uplifting. The only weak spot comes with the arrival of 'Look At Where We Are', is a little too much of a comedown after the non-stop adrenaline of the first half of the set.
What is satisfying though is that Alexis Taylor has now become comfortable in his role of frontman whether that means prancing around the front of the stage in full-on croon mode or playing a guitar that, from a distance, looks like it might be a little too big for him. He's not a big talker (it's usually Al Doyle or Joe Goddard that addresses the crowd every now and then) but it's not an issue given how captivating he is. This is a different guy from the one who hunched himself over synths and keyboards for hour-long blocks at a time.
Hot Chip are adept at turning the atmosphere of this theatre into one that resembles a warehouse rave. They could keep coming back here every two years from now until the end of time and, providing their music continues to get better, no one will mind. This is perfect Friday night entertainment.
Words by Max Raymond
Photos by Anna Kroeger