Music review: Chemical Brothers, Hydro, Glasgow

Almost three decades since they first got together, Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands have evolved their live show into a big, bellowing video art installation, writes David Pollock

The Chemical Brothers, Hydro, Glasgow ****

“Behold, they're coming back!” boomed a big, digitised face, as the thunderous sound of the Chemical Brothers’ Come With Us surged into life. The live music industry has become well used to the visual demands of music played by stationary people at banks of equipment in the near-30 years since Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands got together, but they’ve taken to the medium better than most.

A Chems show is, of course, a party, and the huge, thronging crowd of people on the floor of the hall heaved throughout. Their voices joined in an audible cheer whenever the hookiest of the duo’s big hits – Hey Boy Hey Girl, or the energising Got to Keep On, with its dancing onscreen pink amoeba people – sprang into life.

The Chemical Brothers PIC: Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesThe Chemical Brothers PIC: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
The Chemical Brothers PIC: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Yet the show has also evolved, thanks to the demands of the format, into a big, bellowing video art installation, with centre stage taken by the huge, pin-sharp images on the giant screens above Simons and Rowlands. These included dancing wire-frame figures over Go, as the song escalated to a beat-drop of such frightening volume that it surely counted as an early test of the audience’s mettle, and a weird blue alien figure lip-syncing to Get Yourself High, the song breaking down into a creepy folk-horror whistle in the woods.

Before us, there were dancing toy drummers in high-contrast military clothing, a beautifully-designed superhero tableau around Eve of Destruction, and live analogue stunts with a flood of balloons released into the crowd and animatronic toy robots lowered from the ceiling during Chemical Beats.

There were sonic snippets of Class Action’s weekend, New Order’s Temptation and Noel Gallagher’s vocal for Setting Sun, leading into a fierce finale of Galvanize, Leave Home and Block Rockin’ Beats. Aside from a lights-up bow midway through the set and again at the end, Simons and Rowlands stayed in the dark, their enduring art speaking very loudly for them.

Related topics: