Chemical Brothers + New Order @ Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium, Oakland,CA. April 29th
A strange double bill? Yes, it was. Still, I held out high hopes that a crowd existed in the bay area that could give both bands the appreciation they deserve.
First time I'd been to the Henry J. 'Keep it like a' Kaiser auditorium and I have to say that it's one of the best venues in the whole area. Comparable in size to the Bill Graham Civic Arena in downtown SF, the Kaizer's just a big old gym, but unlike the Graham, you don't need to blow someone to get to the second level of seats. So off to the seats we went like the old people we are.
The Chemical Brothers went on first, which I have to say was much to my surprise. For the uninitiated, their music is hardcore, big-beat thundering dance music meant primarily to be danced to the point of exhuastion to when you've just peaked on enough hallucinogens or MDMA to kill a small rhino. Having them open up for someone seems like the kind of thing that's only going to piss everyone off. The people who wanted to drop massive amounts of shit realize they'll have to not be tripping balls when the Chemical Brothers perform, and those that are there to see New Order have to sit through a bunch of disappointed club kids trying to have fun anyway even though they can't fuck themselves up as much as they wanted to.
All that aside, however, it was an incredible set. Having been at this shit for more than 10 years now (making them the grandfathers of electronica), their show is TIGHT. Amazing visuals set to seemlessly transitioned blazing and thumping music. A complete audio and visual assault, at several points I had to stop and catch my breath, and I was sitting down!
Next was New Order, and to be honest, I wasn't expecting much from them. Hell, they're practically as old as me. I figured they'd trot out some of their new stuff, play a few oldies to appease everyone and get back on their rascals and make their way down to Coachella. Boy was I wrong! Frontman Bernard Sumner started off the show by announcing that it had been twenty years that day that Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis had killed himself and to mark the occassion they played about 4 or 5 Joy Division songs. Overall, they played a really high energy set and were super impressive.
The only problem I have with the show goes back to the combination of these two bands and the crowd it produced. Most of the people there came to see New Order, and, as much as they feature electronic instruments, New Order is not an electronic dance band. So most of the crowd was forced to sit through a style of music they didn't like by the world's greatest example of that kind of music. It just didn't work.
All in all it was still a great show as I'm not going to allow for the crowd reaction to dicatate whether or not the music presented was good or not. In fact, if it had been two seperate shows, it would have been two of the best concerts I've ever seen. I know the Chemical Brothers are touring the U.S. later this year. If New Order does at some point too, definitely check them out.