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Tuesday, 25 October 2011 18:44

Concert review: Chromeo and Mayer Hawthorne deliver a dance party punch at the Pageant, Monday, October 24

Concert review: Chromeo and Mayer Hawthorne deliver a dance party punch at the Pageant, Monday, October 24 Louis Kwok
Written by Matt Fernandes

It was a night of time machine rock at the Pageant as Montreal synth duo Chromeo lifted up a respectable Monday crowd, many of whom were beaten down by a Cardinals World Series loss moments earlier.

The duo entered the stage to chants of "Chrom-eee-ooh. Ooh-ooh!" The variation on Prince's "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" has become their birdcall. Their stage setup was memorable, with trademark sets of glowing women's legs serving as their synth stands. Keyboardist P-Thugg wore a Cards hat and a Birds on the Bat jersey and looked a bit like Turtle from Entourage.

Launching into hits off their 2010 album, "Business Casual," the duo took a neon-bedazzled crowd back to the sounds of the 1980s, complete with bleeps, bloops, all kinds of synth effects, super heavy bass and totally tubular drum fills. All of it was delivered with great funk timing, which is what makes normally intolerable effects very dance-inducing. I can't say I've seen many Pageant crowds more pumped than the one last night.

Musical highlights included "Tenderoni," "Hot Mess," "Night by Night," "Don't Turn the Lights On," "Bonafied Lovin' (Tough Guys)" and "Call Me Up." No single song stood out over the others as most of Chromeo's tracks do sound similar to one another. Their aim was clearly to keep the dance floor throbbing and swaying, as opposed to blowing people away with their songwriting prowess.

A special moment came during the encore when they played their late friend DJ Mehdi's song "I am Somebody," on which Chromeo was originally featured. Mehdi was killed in an accident just as Chromeo's current tour began in Dallas last month.

Guitarist and singer Dave 1 was quite the showman, inciting the crowd to dance. On a technical level, his voice was muffled and overpowered by the beats much of the time. P-Thugg's robotic vocal effects, however, were totally awesome. Nevertheless, the duo could stand to hire some backup singers to add some color (and humanity) to the vocals. Perhaps they spent most of their resources on lighting, which was spectacular by the way.

For that matter, I think adding more touring band members would take Chromeo from fun dance party entertainers to a truly must-see spectacle. There was just something distracting and less than inspiring about the huge rhythm section noise being produced by the single push of a button. A few more musicians rocking vintage synths and drum machines would have been cool to see.

In this respect, opener Mayer Hawthorne bested Chromeo on this night. Channeling the ambition of Kings Go Forth, the soul of Stevie Wonder, the passion of Rufus Wainwright and the showmanship of James Brown, the young singer and producer wowed the crowd, playing songs from his just-released album, "How Do You Do."

Hawthorne and his backing band produced polished, upbeat songs to which the crowd really responded. The highlight was a riveting but much too condensed version of Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True."

As for the Cardinals, I would remind fans of their own 1980s history. They lost game 5 in the 1982 World Series to go down three games to two. You know what happened when they came back home.

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