Just a few days ago, we brought you a review of the excellent concert featuring B.B. King and the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Tonight, instead of artists playing traditional and modern takes on the blues, this evening featured three distinctly different approaches to electronic dance music. No real surprises here, the headliner Hot Chip gave the strongest performance of the night.
Opener Omar Souleyman had a super brief chance to demonstrate his folk-inspired electro. Backed by his regular contributor Rizan Said triggering all of his music via synthesizers, Souleyman leisurely sang each phrase in his native Arabic. Souleyman’s dance music is a variation on the Dabke (party music) from his home country Syria. It’s a nice change of pace to experience electronic dance without typical four-to-the-floor monotony, but the electronics themselves were not enough to incite any real desire to dance. Nevertheless, a mere twenty minutes and it was complete.
Next up, and playing a set nearly as long as the night’s headliner, was Passion Pit. Performing just a month after their sophomore effort Gossamer was released, the band was lively, but fell short of true excellence. The band performed live with six musicians on stage and five keyboards littered throughout the stage (no fewer than two were in use at any given time). Lead singer Michael Angelakos stalked back and forth on stage less like someone consumed with dance fever and more like he was pacing about in an angered rant. Early number “The Reeling” got the crowd moving well enough. By the time the band was into “Constant Conversations” and “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy” the upper-register falsetto Angelakos routinely employs started to wear thin. There’s only so much approximated cooing one can hear before it starts to feel gimmicky. Crowd pleaser “Little Secrets” ended off their set, but the song’s singalong chant of “Higher and higher” sounded more triggered than actually sung by the band, under cutting the tremendous amount of work the band was putting into executing their music otherwise.
Thankfully, Hot Chip’s set was far better, successfully rendering both enrapturing textures and catchy songs. The British group opened with a shortened and amped up version of “Shake a Fist.” They segued into early career track “And I Was a Boy From School” almost with instantly from there. Recent songs “Don’t Deny Your Heart” and previous album title track “One Life Stand” followed. Hot Chip has matured as a live band, taking the studio wizardry from earlier albums that was difficult to replicate and now evolved past even that initial representation, making each texture denser, each inter-locking rhythm more bombastic. Many of the band members sing or harmonize, but the group’s primary singers Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard stand on stage left, each in front of a bank of keyboards, pointed right towards each other. “Flutes” from the new album “In Our Heads” morphs into an epic, escalating smackdown. The best songs are saved for the set’s latter half. “Over and Over” brings the entire Hollywood Bowl to its feet with its outstanding bridge. “Ready for the Floor” and “Hold On” deliver the band’s signature blending of cheerful, slightly silly and intoxicating song craft. And finally, “I Feel Better” takes their sound into weightier territory, implying a darker sense of discovery than most of the rest of their catalog. Hot Chip have come into their own, and earned the right to play such a prominent show in a headlining position.