Review: The Chemical Brothers at Melbourne Arena, Melbourne, November 5th, 2019
Late last year, English electronic icons The Chemical Brothers revealed to their fans that they would be releasing a new album in 2019. Dubbed No Geography, it served as their first record since 2015, and quickly became one of their most-acclaimed.
For us local fans though, the good news kept on coming, with an announcement back in May revealing that the legendary duo of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons would be making their way back to Australia for their first tour of the country since 2013.
After months of waiting, the pair kicked off their tour of the country in Brisbane last week, before travelling to Sydney over the weekend, and onward to Melbourne to wrap everything up.
With Aussie superstars The Avalanches warming the crowd up with a DJ set, Tuesday night saw countless Victorians taking advantage of the Melbourne Cup Day holiday to turn up to one of the most memorable nights of music they’ve ever seen.
Check out ‘No Geography’ by The Chemical Brothers:
With a cool public holiday in Victoria serving as a nice mid-week refresher, it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t in good spirits as they entered the Melbourne Arena for an evening of fine tunes and dancing.
As the evening’s audience slowly filtered into the venue, it wasn’t long before we were met by the familiar faces of Tony Di Blasi and Robbie Chater of The Avalanches, who were set to kick things off with a DJ set.
As any fan of this iconic duo would know, their DJ sets are so widely celebrated that the mere mention of such an event taking place is enough to see fans travel from far and wide to witness their majesty. Needless to say, things were going to be getting nice and hectic up in the venue this evening.
Beginning proceedings by chucking in a taster of 2016’s ‘Because I’m Me’, the pair wasted no time in dishing out a wide variety of tracks, including the likes of Pleasure’s ‘Joyous’ and the pumping ‘Work It Out’ by Karizma.
Backed by visuals that ranged from the butterfly from their Wildflower album cover, to footage of gospel singers, dizzying flashing lights, and live performers, it didn’t take long before fans found themselves in the throes of Avalanches-induced ecstasy, with the dance floor filling up ever so slowly as punters joined in the fun.
As Di Blasi and Chater worked the decks, they made little movement apart from trips back to their collection of records, dishing out a mesmerising mix of tunes that saw the likes of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, INXS’ ‘Just Keep Walking’, and Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ mixed into a seamless concoction of kaleidoscopic musical pleasure.
While we felt like we were back in the boiler room at times, the clear highlight for this opening set was the pairing of The Avalanches’ ‘Subways’ with the footage from Soda_Jerk’s The Was; arguably one of the greatest pieces of musical film ever created.
As things became more and more hectic thanks to the addition of tracks by the likes of Chilly and Basement Jaxx, it took almost everyone by surprise as they realised The Avalanches’ time was up.
With little more than a collection of their bags and a wave to the crowd, the pair were gone, leaving fans to eagerly await what was up next.
Check out ‘Subways’ by The Avalanches:
As the PA system bumped out what sounded like a secondary DJ set between the two sets, the walls of the spacious Melbourne Arena appeared to be closing in, as the GA section looked like little more than a sea of faces, and the walkways filled with so many people that you could be forgiven for thinking the event was oversold.
Before long though, the lights dimmed and the sound of Junior Parker’s cover of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ filled the stadium, bracing us for the arrival of the two men professionally known as The Chemical Brothers.
There’s a famous quote from Toby Creswell that describes the The Chemical Brothers as looking like “Chaucer-reading nerds with turntables”. Undoubtedly, the two figures that just took the stage amongst a mess of musical machinery look nothing like your typical DJ, but you can only begin to understand the wealth of knowledge they collectively hold as the set begins with a rendition of 2015’s ‘Go’.
Something of a call to action, the tracks kicks off and so do the crowd and visuals at the same time. As a flood of bodies pulsate throughout the venue, a mesmerising display of pink humanoid wireframes appear to mime the lyrics on the screen behind the musicians, matching each and every beat, and turning the affair into something of a massive music video.
We’re barely 30 seconds in and it already looks as though everyone in the venue has run a marathon. Sweat dripping from every audience member, beer drenching the floor, and a shared smile across every face, it’s clear that The Chemical Brothers are bringing the joy to this eager crowd.
With the dance floor bathed in a hazy green light, it feels almost apocalyptic as every person in view jumps up and down as if possessed by a musical entity, while light avoids the two men providing the sound and turns the venue into what feels like a massive club night.
Before long, the visuals change, and so does the vibe, as the arrival of ‘Free Yourself’ is taken as something of a suggestion and the energy levels raise tenfold. Dissonant sounds and brutal breakdowns abound, and flashes of lights allow us to catch a glimpse of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons as they furiously tend to their instruments, working hard to ensure this flawless production goes off without a hitch.
Check out ‘Elektrobank’ by The Chemical Brothers:
As the set continues, the hits keep on coming, with the lucky audience treated to classics such as ‘Swoon’, ‘Star Guitar’, ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Elektrobank’, and ‘Galvanize’, while new favourites like ‘MAH’ and ‘No Geography’ prove that even as The Chemical Brothers enter their third decade of existence, they’re still dishing out tunes that drive fans wild.
However, it’s not all straight-up euphoric dancing and blinding lights, with the likes of ‘Saturate’ being accompanied by a mess of green and yellow balloons, while ‘The Golden Path’ sees the musicians joined by two giant robots on stage; complete with laser eyes and rotating heads.
Before long though, it’s clear that we’re getting near the end of the evening, as a stunning rendition of ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ leaves fans shocked at the sheer power of this classic tune.
As a break soon results in an encore appearance from the duo, this final set of tracks sends us off into the night with our ears ringing, our eyes blinded, and our hearts filled with the joy that only the majesty of The Chemical Brothers can deliver.
While it’s easy for detractors to claim that electronic musicians do little more than – to paraphrase a line from ‘Galvanize’ – push a button to deliver their live sets, the sheer professionalism, energy, and precision employed by the duo of Rowlands and Simons shows that they’re far more than a pair who phone it in with a simple set; they’re a couple of musicians who give their all each and every night.
From the careful selection of tracks on the setlist to their seamless blending when played live, from the mind-bending visuals to the dizzying light show, and from the apocalyptic dancefloor to the post-show comedown, The Chemical Brothers don’t just deliver a show, they deliver a treat to every sense.
Needless to say, The Chemical Brothers are not a duo that you simply ‘go and see live’, they’re an act that you go to experience, and truly, it should be compulsory every music fan in the world to go and experience a phenomenal live set from these legendary musicians.
Check out ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ by The Chemical Brothers:
The Chemical Brothers @ Melbourne Arena 5/11/19 Setlist
‘Temptation’/’Star Guitar’/’Gravity Drops’
‘Got To Keep On’
‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’
‘Eve Of Destruction’
‘Escape Velocity’/’The Golden Path’
‘Hoops’/’Get Up On It Like This’
‘Under The Influence’/’Dig Your Own Hole’
‘Wide Open’/’Don’t Think’
‘C-H-E-M-I-C-A-L’/’Leave Home’/’Song To The Siren’
‘Block Rockin’ Beats’
‘Catch Me I’m Falling’
‘Electronic Battle Weapon 8’
‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’