In their recent RA interview, Xavier de Rosnay of Justice told James Glazebrook that it was “better being small in a huge playground, than big in a small playground. You know what I mean?” It's hard not to see the parallel in the ambitious booking of Madison Square Garden for the MySpace Music Tour that the group is currently headlining—and their subsequent downgrade to the WaMu Theater. MSG holds, depending on the stage, about 18,000 revellers; WaMu tops out at 5,600. Small in a huge playground indeed.
But for a band that sold out the 3,000-capacity Terminal 5 on two separate dates in late October of last year, you can't really blame the group (or MySpace) for thinking they might have a chance to fill up the home of the New York Knicks. (For the record: Nearly 80% of the Theater was filled by the time Justice began their set.) The duo is at an uncomfortable level of fame right now: too small to necessitate an arena, too big to appeal solely to the hipsterarti.
The latter was proven the moment that I walked through the door of the Theater. The cross-section of the audience was fascinating. (The MSG stop was an all-ages stop, which might have helped.) Investment bankers and their good-looking girlfriends, a group of kids wearing Kanye sunglasses, a gaggle of girls dancing together in the back section. The only thing that that I noticed in common with everyone seemed to be ownership of a cellphone, which were waving around like a queasy sea of green as the curtain raised on the two Frenchmen.
As for the show: it was excellent in the way that all Justice shows are. The group was raised on a stage between two enormous stacks of Marshall amplifiers with their trademark cross below them. It turned on and off, pulsing to the music. A more spectacular effect, though, was generated by the lights arrayed behind the speakers, which shot out rays of light in between the crevices of the amps. Gaspard Augé and de Rosnay played nearly their entire discography over the course of the hour, stretching out climaxes to seemingly unbearable lengths, only allowing releases to be had for a moment before plunging back into the endless tease.
Like Chromeo before them, Justice offered few surprises, but overall the crowd didn't seem to be too bothered. Despite the relative sterility that comes with a theater show, there were few people sitting down during any portion of Justice's performance. It was professional hedonism, carefully plotted and executed brilliantly—their sound tailormade for the big room. When they come back to New York, it will be hard to imagine them playing in anything smaller. And maybe, if they're lucky, it'll be something even bigger.
Photo credit: Sara Hearn