The Chemical Brothers Live, Allstate Arena, Chicago, April 21st 2002, by Julie Lynn Hill
I saw the Chems live for the first time last night, and thinking about it still makes me bouncy. Which is a bad thing, because I'm in a fucking lot of pain from dancing for something like 3 or 4 hours straight. It's a price I'm more than willing to pay. Not only the Chems, but also Paul Oakenfold and Sasha & Digweed, and I was not disappointed by any of them. Nor did I have to bitch slap Oakie. :)
First off - Tom was wearing that shirt. I kid you not. :) We left from Madison around 2:30 - Mike and I rode with my friend Maitri and her man Derek, and the plan was to meet up with more of their friends in Chicago to grab some good food and beer before the show. It ended up being more of an adventure than we'd imagined. We got stuck in traffic (ah, Chicago), and Maitri's memory of where the pizza place we were headed (Giordano's - if you're in Chicago, stop there and eat their stuffed crust. YUM) was was just a bit clouded, so even after we got out of traffic we took a bit of scenic tour of a couple of suburbs. Meanwhile, Maitri was on the phone with Leo and Chrissy, trying to tell them how to get there without knowing the name of the road they should be looking for - "Go towards the water tower with the big rose on it! It's right by the arena!" She was actually right about that - her friends ended up in the parking lot of a McDonald's right under the Rosemont water tower, not 50 yards from the pizza place. And they didn't see it. But hey, we all found each other and had a lovely meal and a few bottles of Guinness.
The next confusion was show time - we got both 6 and 7 as starting times for the show. We'd driven by the Allstate Arena (which used to be the Rosemont Horizon for those of you that are in to that sort of thing) at about 5 and the parking lot had been dead empty, so we figured we had until 7 to get there. We arrived right around 7 - they were just starting to park cars. And the bastards - $11.00/car to park. Concerts around here are normally no more than $5 or $6, to give you an idea.
So, we park and sprint through the parking lot in the freezing cold - what the fuck happened to the 80 days we were having earlier this week?? - only to wait in line to have our ID's checked. (18 and over show, thank god, even though there were quite a few obviously younger than that kids in there - must've been some bored parents there. ;) ). Then we wait to get an armband indicating that we're over 21. Then we wait to get inside and get very thoroughly searched before we're finally free. We actually entered right by the backstage area, which we thought was a good thing to know, but unfortunately nothing exciting came of this knowledge. :(
The setup on the arena floor was nice - 2 stages, one on either end, which meant that they would be able to make good on their "nonstop music" promise. One was larger than the other, but the other was decorated with tribal/African cutouts, so we debated which one the Chems would be on. We were a bit disturbed by a phrase on the ticket though - "Seating Area Only/ General Admission". We staked out some seats right in the center and then went to ask what it meant - sure enough, they had sold separate tickets for the floor and the seats. If you had a seating ticket, you couldn't be on the floor, and if you had a floor one - no seats for you. We were a bit pissed about it - they'd only been marked as "general admission" when we bought 'em, but in the long run we decided it was better that we had seats because the show was supposed to go until 2am. And none of us has THAT much energy. :) We danced the night away in the aisles in front of our seats, and that worked out alright, especially when we saw how packed the floor got. Most crowded show I have ever seen. It was impressive, really.
So we sat and watched people file in, from stupidly-dressed candy ravers to stupidly-dressed, erm, club whores, I guess would be the word, to people that came in dressed like normal human beings. We watched them finish up the stage and surmised that Oakenfold would be playing the larger stage first, as indicated by the large "Perfecto" banner that hung above it. Then we spotted Oakenfold up in one of the sky boxes - he was just standing on the balcony watching the crowd and hanging out with some female. Amusing story about him in the sky box later on. :)
I was relatively neutral about seeing Oakenfold live - I like some of his stuff, but as people who've been on IRC lately with me know, his Jesus complex pisses me off to the point where I swore I'd jump on stage and beat him down if he did it in my presence. :) I was pleasantly surprised by his show and the lack of violence needed. The man is a good DJ and knows how to work a crowd. I'm not familiar enough with his music to name any tunes he played, but he did a great job of keeping everyone moving, and it was fun to watch him bounce around stage and get really into what he's doing. He'd start jumping up and down when he got a big crowd reaction and in general just seemed to be enjoying himself. The visuals on the screens above the stage were pretty forgettable - the obligatory futuristic scantily-clad Asian woman dancing, some gorgeous nature shots and shots of NYC (with the Twin Towers intact), some psychedelic stuff, and the occasional spinning Perfecto logo. He spun for an hour and a half, and I didn't stop the entire time, except when he'd start raising his arms and Maitri and I would stop and watch. He must've felt my wrath from afar. :)
As his set ended, we started watching the tribally-decorated stage to see if we could tell who would be next. For a moment there, we saw a tall man with glasses standing in the shadows and thought - "It's Tom!", and it started out with a small sample of Afrika - but it was just John Digweed doing a set as Delta Heavy. Thankfully, he only played 30 minutes while they turned over the Oakenfold stage for the Chems because it just wasn't that good. Stereotypical numbing/repetitive trance. He needs to stick to working with Sasha. We weren't sure who it was at first, so Maitri turned and asked some guys behind her, and the dipshits told her that the first DJ that went wasn't even Oakenfold. Erm, sure, morons.
But then - he stopped suddenly, bass filled the arena, lights flashed from the other stage, and we were being told to surrender. I started bouncing while there was general confusion about what exactly was happening. We got about a minute of Surrender to the Void before the Brothers came on stage and started into Come With Us. The crowd reaction was huge once the appeared, and they were even more about working the crowd than Oakenfold was - Ed spent a lot of time waving and gesturing for more noise. Anyways, they went from CWU to Music:Response, which thrilled the hell outta me. Next up was Block Rockin' Beats - I was really surprised by that, especially because they didn't play Galaxy Bounce. Ah well. After BRB they did what I can best describe as a little EPD tribute - some fucked up thing that was a bit Leave Home, a bit Chico's Groove or Three Little Birdies or something such. After that, my memory gets a bit blurred as to how things went. I think they may have done Afrika and then Sunshine Underground after that, followed by Setting Sun (no vocals, of course). After that they did Star Guitar, then Out of Control. Or maybe it was the other way around, but they were all played. (Or did Afrika go into Out of Control? Maybe that's it....) They disappeared from stage after Star Guitar, and came back for their encore of My Elastic Eye, HBHG, and finally - kick fucking ass - TPPR. There were some interludes in there where they may have been playing minor bits from Surrender or CWU that I didn't recognize because I'm not as familiar with those, or hell, maybe they were just jamming. It doesn't matter. :) It was a fucking awesome set, from them working the crowd to them just getting into what they were doing - they were jamming up there while they were playing. Plus, the visuals were nice - they had huge screens behind them that were sometimes used and sometimes behind curtains, there was a round screen above them, and the main, erm, podium? in front where Tom spent most of his time had screens all the way around. There were strange dancing stick-type figures and donkeys, a peaceful beach scene for Sunshine Underground, funky staticy stuff for Out of Control, all sorts of odd/random things. The light show was well-done too. A technically awesome show, and then the Brothers doing their thing - hot damn. :)
Poor Sasha & Digweed had to follow that up, and while I liked their set, I was too tired to really get into it. Like I said, Digweed needs to stay with Sasha. They did their trance thing, pretty much, and it was really quite good, very dark and tribal, which I like quite a bit. Nothing spectacular with the lighting or visuals, but I think they were really being filler for the hardcore people that wanted to stay the entire night, which is a pity. I happen to especially like Northern Exposure, so it would have been nice if they could've done something like that. As it was, Maitri and I were the only two of our group dancing, and we did so only intermittently, so we only stayed for a little over an hour of their set. Plus, we wanted to beat the rush out of there and get on the road seeing as it's a 2 hour Chicago-Madison trek. It was while we were just sitting and listening to the music that I happened to look up towards the sky boxes and I noticed that Oakenfold was on the little deck outside of his, dancing - with glowsticks. The boy can move, I say. Then I looked to the right and saw Tom and Ed in their box, looking like they were making drinks and also watching Sasha and Digweed. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I knew exactly where the brothers were and where the backstage area was, I didn't get a chance to meet 'em.
We left shortly after one - it was not only fucking cold out, it was raining. We made it home safely, collapsed into bed and fell asleep almost immediately, only to wake up at 2:30 in the afternoon to find it sleeting and hailing out. Not that it mattered, because we could hardly move anyways.
The Chems fucking own you live. I am so happy. :)