To the sound of gently rising tones, 5,000 fans watched smoke evaporating on a stage resembling a Yamaha keyboard warehouse for three minutes before the London electro-poppers finally appeared, clad mostly in white and with singer Alexis Taylor swamped by a futuristic festival waterproof as if just plucked from the barrier of a drizzly Wireless to front the band.
Having forged a celebrated path as electronica’s primary torch-bearers of classic songcraft and danceable emotion, Hot Chip’s 2019 UK tour culminated at Alexandra Palace, so perhaps they felt a venue half the capacity counted as the sort of club show suited to indulging a new album almost in full.
As enjoyable as last month’s eighth album Freakout/Release is, it didn’t rock dance music on its axis nor demolish the chart beyond repair, yet it made up almost half of last night’s set, dominating the first – mildly underwhelming – 45 minutes or so.
The album’s title track made for a punchy opener with its warbot beats, Muse-alike vocoder vocals and full metal racket of a chorus, sounding like Daft Punk having their groove storage drives hacked by Trent Reznor.
The song Down was dynamic futurist disco and both Guilty and Eleanor were fine examples of Miami Vice sizzle pop, with ex-New Young Pony Club keyboardist Lou Hayter adding elegant deadpan vocals to the former and the latter toying intriguingly with the sharp synthetic edges of Eighties mall muzak.
By the time Alexis sang “ain’t it hard to be funky when you’re not feeling sexy” on Hard to Be Funky, Brixton was crying out for big guns.
“We’ve got some old stuff too,” said guitarist Al Doyle half an hour in, introducing the night’s first true banger And I Was A Boy From School; alongside the slinky Ready For the Floor, a reminder of the band’s early brilliance in crafting driving electro anthems from alt-rock base materials. From there the set moved steadily through the gears. Hungry Child and Straight to the Morning added flesh to the machinery of EDM and house.
Out of My Depth, the new album’s euphoric highpoint built around a Chariots of Fire synth chug, restated Hot Chip’s ability to weave melancholy into pop with the panache of the Pet Shop Boys: “When I’m in my darkest place I must be careful not to dwell there,” Taylor sang, simultaneously haunting and hook-laden.
And main set and encore alike culminated in almighty crowd-pleasers: Over and Over, featuring a go-go intro purloined from Eighties funk rockers ESG, and Huarache Lights, a war zone rave of a finale that had Taylor scratching noise from his guitar neck with a beer bottle. Ultimately, patience paid off.
Brixton Academy, to September 24; ticketmaster.co.uk