July 31, 2007 at Red Rocks AmphitheaterBetter than:
A four-story-tall Light Bright
The French electro/house duo Daft Punk descended on Red Rocks last night, dressed in their now-iconic robotic garb and encased in a radiant pyramid of light. The pyramid exploded with vivid imagery fueled by the band's thumping mix of crushing synths and feverish sampling, and served as the centerpiece of the duo's space-age deconstruction.
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If you follow Daft Punk at all you've probably heard about this set up before -- it was the crux of their performances at Coachella and Bang, two shows heralded my many critics as the best live performances of 2006. Sure, that may come off as a slightly hyperbolic statement to any that haven't witnessed the spectacle first hand; even if those folks were in the majority due to the painfully small number of U.S. appearances the duo made that year. The group's decision to extend the tour by adding five more U.S. performances this year just means more fans will get to witness the show first hand.
After a solid showing by opening neo-new wave act The Rapture and an energetic set from French electro artist Kavinsky, the lights went out in the amphitheater to signal Daft Punk's arrival. From behind a black curtain that covered the stage, the duo shot their opening volley: the Casio-style notes used by humans to communicate with the alien race from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The communique wasn't lost on the crowd, whose collective roar bounced back with a message of its own. The curtain dropped, exposing the two artists perched high atop a black pyramid at center stage. The duo continued their robotic call and response until the syllabic sounds they were looping actually melded into a robotic message of their own: Human, Robot. It was a clever way to start the show, and to set the tone of robotic evolution that encompassed the evening. From there Daft launched into a tireless set that melded material from each of their albums in an interweaving mix of beats and samples. "Robot Rock" melted across "Technologic," which saw a glowing backdrop behind the group illuminate with the words "WRITE, CUT, PASTE, SAVE, ERASE" in sync with the song's lyrics. As each track progressed -- "Technologic" to "One More Time" to "Television Rules the Nation" to "Crescendolls" -- the pyramid would unlock a new feature. What started as trails of white light moving across the edges became blinding flashes of solid blues and reds across each face. Streams of solid light gave way to bands of sound waves stretching the faces in "Steam Machine," and by the time the pair unveiled "Around the World" and "Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger." the entire stage was a web of moving color. With each of the pyramid's emerging capabilities the crowd roared louder -- a visual counterpoint to the call and response that opened the show.
The overwhelming set stretched for nearly an hour and a half, featuring highlights like the Matrix-esque crawl of green shapes during "Face to Face" and blast-waves of blinding color during "Da Funk." The whole thing culminated in fitting fashion with "Human After All," during which the pyramid glowed with its final feature: full color images of nebulous galaxies, wide-shots of earth, and flashes of smiling human faces looking back. Daft left the stage, and after a short break reemerged for an encore that saw the pair themselves become part of the spectacle. During a reprise of "One More Time" the duo's trademark suits lit up with neon-red trails that flickered away as they danced atop the pyramid. When it was all over, the crowd trickled out of Red Rocks in absolute awe, proving once again that Daft Punk's live shows, though very few, are not to be missed. -- John Linn
Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I was lucky enough to catch the group's set at Bang last year, so the prospect of reliving that experience at one of the coolest venues in the world was enough to get me on a plane from Miami to Denver just for the show. Random Detail: Opening act The Rapture's Matt Saber concluded their set by saying of Daft Punk, "This is going to be the best show you've ever seen. Better than sex. Better than your birthday. Better than your wedding." After the show I overheard at least a dozen fans echoing that sentiment. By the Way: I caught Daft Punk's newest film Electroma at its Miami premier last Friday. The minimalist, arthouse flick directed by the duo should be making its way around theaters nationwide this month, and will see a DVD release in September.