The Chemical Brothers, SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Sat 23 Nov
- Sean Greenhorn
- 25 November 2019
This article is from 2019
Playing to a sold-out crowd in Glasgow's biggest arena, big beat pioneers cement their status as both old guard and cutting-edge masters
Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons have been producing electronic music as The Chemical Brothers since the mid-1990s. Over the years, the producers have pushed their sound more into psych-leaning territory whilst always staying firmly rooted in the archetypical 'big beat' sound that made their name. For their sold-out show at Glasgow's Hydro, the duo leans heavily on new album No Geography and its immediate predecessor Born in the Echoes, sprinkling older classics from their seven other studio albums to keep audiences reminded of their remarkable legacy.
With the duo taking the stage behind a bank of electronics, shrouded mostly in darkness, the heavy lifting for tonight's spectacle is done by show designers Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall. The dazzling visuals are displayed on a floor-to-ceiling screen, which is accompanied by a plethora of lasers and lighting cued perfectly to each beat. The images themselves are a perfect pairing with the music – shifting, enthralling and often overwhelming. That these visuals are punctuated at points by confetti, bouncing balloons and two multi-story robots with lasers coming out of their eyes, is just the icing on the sensory-overload cake.
Musically, the energy is never allowed to dip, and new delights such as 'MAH' or 'Free Yourself' are quickly complimented by the inimitable 'Star Guitar' or the earth-shaking Hey Boy Hey Girl'. Slower burn classics such as 'Saturate' or 'Wide Open' work their woozy magic, and the show culminates in a pre-encore airing of 'Block Rockin' Beats', which is unleashed in all its pure 90s glory, driving the crowd into a frenzy.
In some ways, the songs are played a bit too straight, and a moment when the 'brothers' slip from New Order's 'Temptation' into 'Star Guitar' is a fun reminder of both their influences and DJ credentials. The rest of the night, the songs are played mostly straight, highlighting the show's only real fault – its sleek professionalism sometimes taking away from a sense of 'liveness'. It is fortunate then, that for the two hours of the concert, you are dazzled into not being able to think too much about this. A remarkable show from two older masters who show no signs of letting up.