Like New Order before them, Hot Chip’s music exists at the intersection of at least three key music sets: pop, dance and indie. Little wonder, then, that their work attracts such a diverse range of admirers: indie kids who wouldn’t ordinarily go near a nightclub, fortysomethings who hit legal drinking age somewhere around the time of the Second Summer Of Love, even fiftysomethings who can (correctly) trace the line of influence of Scritti Politti and even David Bowie on the ‘white plastic soul’ elements of Hot Chip’s work.
Perhaps inevitably though, there are those who view the breadth of Hot Chip’s appeal as a form of weakness. As one wag on Twitter recently pointed out, they are “the most 8/10 band ever”.
All of which makes Hot Chip sound like the musical equivalent of Switzerland or – worse – water biscuits. Yet their packed-out show at Heaven is anything but bland: instead, it’s the musical equivalent of a giant serotonin surge – a banging set that dials up the dance-centric elements of Hot Chip’s sound without smothering their well-honed hooks.
There’s never been a better time to see The ‘Chip live. Their latest album, In Our Heads, is a humdinger, and they have four other highlight-filled albums to draw upon.
In addition, main vocalist Alexis Taylor (he of the big specs) has blossomed into a confident performer and indisputably the band’s visual focal point. Whereas earlier performances would have seen him deliver his vocals while hunched rigidly over a keyboard, he’ll now regularly take the mic from its stand and shimmy at the lip of the stage. On Night And Day he makes a virtue out of the rap section’s inherent awkwardness: “Do I look like a rapper? Do I sound like a rapper?” he intones precisely, sounding a lot like Louis Theroux when he tried his hand at gangster rapping.
With his effusive facial expressions and his, um, vest, guitarist Al Doyle is the band’s Keith Moon. Admittedly the stage patter remains minimal and almost laughably perfunctory (Alexis Taylor jokes, “This is why I don’t talk more on stage!” after delivering some it’s-great-to-be-here platitudes) but it matters not one jot. There’s neither a dull moment nor a duff track within the set.
Their performance has the smooth, carefully-controlled arc of a DJ setlist, with individual tracks broken down, built up and re-moulded so as not to disrupt the irresistible flow.
They’re particularly adept at keeping their older, most familiar tracks fresh: Boy From School is turned in to a piano-led house anthem, while Over And Over pushes its giant, wobbly mutant riff to the foreground, making it even more of a shuddering behemoth than on record. Better still, they can incorporate other acts’ songs into the set list – and not just any songs, but Prince‘s If I Was Your Girlfriend and Fleetwood Mac‘s Everywhere – without it feeling jarring or gratuitous.
It all adds up to a performance that’s worthy of a little more than eight out of ten.