It’s like walking into the living incarnation of a 16th-century Hieronymus Bosch vision of Hell. Chaos rules supreme in the cavernous Barrowlands tonight: rushes of ice-cold air rip through Glasgow’s notorious pressure cooker, sweat drips from the ceiling and, in near dark, 2,000 lost souls don’t know where to turn, where to look, what to expect and, in some severely raddled cases, their own names. It’s half past eight. The Chemical Brothers aren’t on until ten. They party hard up here.
And rightly so, for this isn’t so much a gig as a sense-shredding celebration of sound and vision, a finely-tweaked show that seamlessly fuses the aggressive dynamics of rock, pop and dance into one super-sleek 90-minute head-trip into the minds of Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons. The pair have spent the best part of this year perfecting their ‘Surrender’-heavy set across the globe, from gothic dungeons in Buenos Aires to Belgian cattle-sheds, and if at the end you still find your feet rooted to the spot and if the hairs haven’t been torn from the nape of your neck from the spine-quivering thrill of it all, the chances are you’re clinically dead.
What they’ve learnt, it quickly transpires, is to confound expectations and play around with the blocks of sound at their disposal. It’s easy to accuse the Chems of sticking to a trusted formula, of flicking the switch and letting the mayhem unfold on autopilot, but it’s clear that although they’re firmly in command of their souped-up tech-trance juggernaut, no-one, least of all them, knows quite where it’s heading. It’s never out of control, but their genius lies in making you think that it is.
Hence a breathless opening salvo of ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Music: Response’, ‘Under The Influence’ and ‘Out Of Control’: volley after volley of Gatecrasher-savvy, hypno-fluoro, tech-smart assaults which collapse midway through, spin off in another direction and flit from speaker to speaker only to emerge Harder! Faster! Louder! as international jet-set millionaires Tom and Ed, in an ungainly fashion, spur the ravers onwards and, most certainly, upwards. ‘Let Forever Be’ is shorn of Noel Gallagher‘s flabby yell, his vocal reduced to a stutter over a streamlined pulse, while they do with mangled guitars and supple funk on ‘Got Glint?’ and ‘Brothers Gonna Work It Out’ what a million indie rock workmen would consider sacrilege.
Theirs is the art and well-honed technique of the superstar DJ translated into a live experience, only here, aided by retina-dazzling supercharged cinema and laser-guided light surgery, there are no limits and no run-out grooves. As a final ‘The Private Psychedelic Reel’ proves for 20 majestically messy minutes, they can take you higher, for longer, and there’s no telling when you’ll come down.