Nick Morgan and crew
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS
Foire aux Vins, Colmar, France, August 12th, 2007
Mrs Serge asked me to choose a few gigs from the
program of this year’s Foire aux Vins, I picked
Chemical Brothers as one of my choices,
much to my offspring’s surprise. ‘Do
you know them? Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer
to go to Norah Jones?’ asked an astonished
Arthur to whom I immediately answered, ‘but
of course!’ while the girls were looking even
more doubtful, rightly so. Actually, I knew them
only by name, but hey, it sounded cool, and I was
definitely convinced when, one or two weeks later,
Nick told me that our good friend Mr
Segs had left the excellent Alabama 3 for working
with the Chemical Brothers, which led me to believe
that logically, the Bros had to be even better than
A3, and probably make the same kind of excellent
music. Blessed are the poor in spirit…
here we are in the ‘coquille’, surrounded
by 4000 thirty-year-old kids of various styles.
A young girl next to us rolls her first joint and
shares it with her boyfriend at the speed of light,
while others make soap bubbles filled with weed
smoke and send them all over the place (charming
custom, innit?) On stage, the band’s official
DJ plays some Daft Punk and the hall instantly resembles
a giant discotheque, everybody jigging about like
if there was no tomorrow. Am I the only one to keep
unruffled? So it seems…
our neighbour starts to roll her second spliff,
I decide to detail what’s on the large stage.
That’s strange, there are no drums, no bass,
no guitars, no horns, not even the obligatory cello
or double bass, nor the tiniest bongo, but rather
three piles of synthesizers and various other keyboards
or pieces of electronics.
like when we’re wondering ‘but when
are you going to drink all this?’ when being
at a whisky friend’s, I’m asking myself
‘will they have enough time to play all this
machinery?’ Especially since Arthur just told
me that the chemicals consisted in just two players.
Barely a band, if you ask me…
DJ plays some more tekknoh now. It all sounds like
tekknoh to me anyway. I notice a piece where they
used lots of Lee Morgan samples, almost the whole
Sidewinder album drowned into 200bpm bass and drums.
I ask Arthur, ‘are the Chemical Brothers playing
the same kind of music?’ He won’t answer
to me, little bugger! The girl rolls her third joint.
The Bros are late. More tekknoh. I decide to detail
the machines on stage a little further… Don’t
they look just like the cockpit of an Airbus?
the hall, it’s Ibiza. The girl rolls her fourth
joint. Even more tekknoh (samples borrowed from
Cannonball Adderley this time I think.) On stage
they are adjusting the smoke machines. More smoke,
that’s clever. The girl rolls her fifth joint…
of a sudden, the lights in the hall are turned off
and there’s a ballet of spotlights while a
pulsating bass line arises… Here they are
on the stage! Two little guys, perfect sons in law
- ha-ha-ha, they look pretty harmless! They go behind
their machines, push a few buttons and BANG! A huge
maelstrom of sounds starts to blow in gusts. The
crowd is ecstatic. The girl next to us, as white
as a sheet – aren’t we wondering why
- yells at her boyfriend that she’s not feeling
too well and that she wants to leave immediately.
stage, it’s Marilyn Manson meets Kraftwerk,
just louder than the addition of both. Or should
I say ‘avant-garde techno’? Shouldn’t
be my cup of tea but I must confess I quite like
it. I notice that they barely play any ‘instruments’.
Sometimes, they leave their keyboards and the wall
of sound just goes on, unchanged. There’s
a huge LED screen behind them, displaying clever
artwork in synch with the apocalyptic beats. Animals,
clowns, policemen, churches, dancing figures, psychedelic
arabesques… Do I notice a few political messages?
Pink Floyd’s The Wall comes to mind…
And of course everything dada… And also the
early Père Ubu, both in the aesthetics and
in the use of ‘industrial’ noises. Devo?
Pierre Henry? They also use quite some oriental
samples… Isn’t there some oud somewhere?
And there, a few typical violin riffs from the middle-East!
I can’t really stand the beat, way too permanently
binary for me, I focus more and more on the samples
and on the ‘general’ sound, and frankly
it’s all very cleverly done, even if very
little of what we hear is made on the spot. Maybe
nothing at all, actually, but who cares? Most of
the crowd is here for the beat anyway… Not
me. It’s quite hypnotic I must say. The loudspeakers’
breath makes our trousers stick to the front of
our legs, like when you walk on the beach on a windy
Scottish day. Really! Sometimes my mind starts to
wander. I’m thinking, ‘what they are
doing is to music what photography is to painting,
not better, not worse, just different…’
Another time, I’m wondering if the Bros aren’t
and George of music…
who are the Chemical Brothers and who are Gilbert
of a sudden, the beat stops and there’s a
huge ‘Love us all’ written on the screen.
Arthur scrutinizes me… ‘Did you like
it, Dad?’ ‘But of course, son!’
And now I have tinnitus in my left ear. Serves me
right! - Serge
the index of all reviews:
Nick's Concert Reviews
There's nothing more down there...