Stepping into the cavernous Grand Hall for the first time was nothing short of breathtaking. With thousands of windows lining the arched ceiling, the venue felt more like a Victorian train station than a concert hall. On stage Erol Alkan dished out a pumping set of tech-house and electro to an excitable dance floor. When the Brothers arrived on stage at nine, they were greeted with a wave of mass hysteria from the rammed floor.
"Galvanize" kicked off a set composed largely of big hits and tracks from We Are the Night—the cynics out there won't be surprised to hear that the majority of tracks featuring on the Chemical Brother's new best of CD were wheeled out. Former singles "Star Guitar," "Block Rockin' Beats," "Out of Control" and "Hey Boy, Hey Girl" all received suitably massive responses. As ever with the Chems, the emphasis on visuals was just as important as the music. A towering screen delivered the trippy graphics, while an arsenal of strobes, spotlights and four multi-coloured lasers entranced the crowd, turning people momentarily into drooling zombies. The infamous clown's head, looking down on the crowd like a demonic messiah, never fails to disturb the uninitiated; "you are all my children now."
For the most part, the crowd—a mix of young and old—seemed to be in collective euphoria, but some of the lesser-known songs failed to pick up the same kind of response as the tried-and-tested selection. Overall, the atmosphere didn't quite reach the level of intensity found at one of the duo's Brixton Academy gigs, but that's understandable considering the size of the venue. It's also fair to say a gig of this size would attract a more mainstream audience than the hardcore Academy crowd.
But the crowd played their part. The only real downer was in the predictability of the track selection and performance. The set seemed too well rehearsed; the well honed product of a twelve month tour. For such a special occasion, why not mix it up a bit? Some guest vocals from the likes of Noel Gallagher, Beth Orton or Tim Burgess could've meant the difference between this gig being great and being legendary. That said, it was great to hear material from Exit Planet Dust, especially a twisted rendition of "Chemical Beats."
Not a landmark gig, but spectacular nonetheless. There really is no one else in the electronic music scene right now who throws a live show quite like The Chemical Brothers. It will be interesting to see if they can top this gig with their next tour. But let's hope they don't turn into an arena act just yet.