On a technical basis, nothing about Chromeo should really work. The rhythm half uses a talk box, and their genre of music is most often classified, without irony, as "electrofunk." The singer is the hypothetical result of the Fonz and Potsie immaculately conceiving a child with the physique of a pipe cleaner. Their lyrics read like a string of one-liners uttered at a martini bar bachelor party -- during spring break. It's almost baffling, then, how much charm comes with that cheese factor.
Live, the two qualities are never isolated, much like the two men who make up the Montreal band. David Macklovith (Dave 1), fronts the duo in a tiny, trim suit, all sunglasses-indoors charisma while Patrick Gemayel subtlely (P. Thugg) produces most of the duo's groove on keyboard and synth in the background. The guys' symbolic equipment is kept unveiled until the moment they use it, and the result is effective. Two keyboard docks, held up by glowing female legs, are ready for action the second their owners are ready to get down.
The duo's arrival onstage was heralded by the "Chro-me-oh, ooooo-oooooh" chant that has qyuickly become its official announcement. The guys consistently make good use of their band name, hiding it inside songs and reproducing it, with immediate effect, when it's time for crowd interaction. This isn't to say that the crowd isn't already busy: While women crowdsurfed ("I see you, baby," Dave 1 acknowledged), the larger audience betrayed the level of booty dancing normally reserved for listening to En Vogue on the drive to work. What resulted was less "dancing" than it was what I believe you call "boogying."
The frontloaded setlist traveled rapidly through a greatest-hits list of "Fancy Footwork," "Tenderoni" and "Call Me Up" before moving deeper into the band's third album, the softer, occasionally mushierBusiness Casual
. The songs are heartbreakers even on the album, and performed live, the result is almost mercilessly smooth, as though some stagehand had poured a truckload of Nair on the entire audience while we weren't looking. It should be impossible to croon about romance with lyrics like "special kind of lovin'" in any serious way, but the odd-couple duo manages to do so, albeit with caricature baby-makin' vibes. No one can call a crowd "gangsta" with a straight face quite like Chromeo.
As the set continued its trek through the best tracks of Fancy Footwork, Business Casual and even She's In Control, the ambiance took overtly literal cues from their lyrics. With the line, "I see you when the lights turn now" ("Waiting 4 U"), the lights, well, turned low -- and blue, then purple. As the spoken-word outro of "Call Me Up" trailed into "Call me when you wanna ..." the blank was filled with a tap of the high-hat. Between sounds, the guys coordinated claps, dance moves and percussion breaks with both each other and the light system, an omnipresent vertical rigging that at some points appeared to surpass both the brightness of the sun and the limits of human eyesight.
And then, without warning, it was time to get serious -- but only for a little while. One encore down, with enough audience feedback to sustain several more, Dave smoothed back his hair, re-buttoned his tiny, tailored blazer and started another one, this time with a dedication. "This is for DJ Mehdi," he told the crowd as the duo moved into "I Am Somebody," a track recorded with the recently fallen producer. "He was the dopest guy I know. R.I.P." It's fitting that Mehdi's lineage is commemorated in a sold-out dance party, somewhere between the moment Dave got a little too wild for his buttons and the intro to "My Girls Is Calling Me (A Liar)."
Then again, Chromeo's own after-show legacy is equally appropriate. Two encores down, crunching silver confetti underfoot, the dance party paired off into newly formed couples, random hook-ups perhaps overly inspired by the heart-breakin', baby-makin', pulse-escalatin' grooves of two overtly nerdy dudes from French Canada. It should be noted that at least one woman left the show without the bra she entered with.
Click through for the full setlist: CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK:
Personal Bias: The guys have hit Denver three times in the past year, and they namedropped Westword during their set -- which is to say they're in pretty good. "Another sold out show," Dave 1 shouted to the crowd. "Goddamn, Denver, this is our second home!"
By the Way: At some point during the set, the left limb on P-Thugg's lady-legged keyboard experienced some sort of malfunction. For the rest of the night, a dim line running down the leg looked remarkably like a varicose vein.
Random Detail: To the woman in front of me: I totally saw you take your bra off during the encore and shove it in your Dooney. And then I wrote about it.
Setlist: 1. "Fancy Footwork" 2. "I'm Not Contagious" 3. "Outta Sight" 4. "Tenderoni" 5. "Call Me Up" 6. "Opening Up (Ce Soir On Danse)" 7. "Hot Mess" 8. "Waiting 4 U" 9. "Money For Nothing" (Dire Straits)/"Bonafied Lovin'" 10. "When the Lights Fall" 11. "You're So Gangsta" 12. "Momma's Boy" 13. "Needy Girl" 14. "Night By Night"
Encore one: 15. "You Make It Rough" 16. "Don't Turn the Lights On" 17. "Grow Up"
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Encore two: 18. "I Am Somebody" (in memory of DJ Mehdi) 19. "My Girl Is Calling Me (A Liar)"