Pioneering electronic duo The Chemical Brothers brought the ultimate rave to London’s O2 Arena on Saturday evening.
Performing in the capital as part of their UK tour, the venue was well and truly packed by the time Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands took to the massive stage at 9pm.
Hot on the heels of a DJ set from MusicTech producer of the year award winner TSHA, who warmed the room up with an hour of house and tech groovers, the Manchester pair wasted no time in transforming the vast space into a hedonistic club.
Kickstarting their career-spanning two-hour show, the one-two of Go/Do It Again had the mixed-age crowd singing along while throwing their best shapes.
This was a theme that ran throughout the 23-song setlist, as newer tracks from recent album For That Beautiful Feeling (many of which exploded to life) were seamlessly paired with older favourites. This structure served to showcase the interconnectedness of the Chems’ sonic universe and its many elements.
Chemical Brothers Live @ The O2 Arena. Image: Ray Baseley
No Reason, which was accompanied by an army of neon drumming dancers, blended perfectly into 1999 classic Hey Boy Hey Girl – despite the two-decade-plus separation between both tracks, they worked surprisingly well back-to-back. Similarly, the ominous Eve Of Destruction weaved effortlessly into the psychedelic rabbit hole of Feel Like I Am Dreaming.
While the stage set up itself was actually quite simple (aside from a moment halfway where the duo looked out on the huge crowd and took in the moment, the duo loomed over their technical equipment), it was the beaming light show and trippy, sci-fi-leaning visuals that really took the experience to another dimension.
During the euphoric Live Again, pink strobes scanned the crowd while tunnelling on-screen soundwaves reflected a post-lockdown rewiring of the brain. Soon after, the hypnotic Wide Open erupted with thousands of tiny birds breaking free. Later, the troupe of animated breakdancing acrobats looked so 3D and lifelike it was as if they were about to somersault over the crowd. And that’s before mentioning the now-iconic giant walking robots who descended during 1995 acid workout Three Little Birdies Down Beats.
From start to finish, this was a spectacular assault on all the senses (particularly the piercing lasers of MAH) and proof of The Chemical Brothers’ place atop the electronic throne. More than that, it was an exhilarating embodiment of just how transcendent dance music can be when the right people are in control.
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