The Chainsmokers rage, with considerable help from the machine

EDM duo doesn't let audience down


Flashy special effects and eccentric behavior didn't detract from the excited atmosphere in JPJ Tuesday.

Lauren Hornsby | Cavalier Daily

The Chainsmokers are a popular EDM pop duo that struck gold in the past year with behemoth hits like “Roses,” “Don’t Let Me Down” and “Closer.” Understandably, their Tuesday night concert at John Paul Jones Arena was met with much anticipation. However, one question was unavoidable — how can an EDM group, which predominantly doesn’t sing, possibly outperform its polished radio edits?

The duo’s enthusiasm — not to mention its endless supply of props and accessories — best answered this question. The concert began with not one but two exciting opening acts, including Kiiara — famous in her own right for “Gold.” Supporting players were highlights to the main act as well. Tony Ann, a pianist discovered on Youtube and then recruited on tour by The Chainsmokers, introduced “Closer” with enough talent to merit his own future concert. Frequent Chainsmokers collaborator Emily Warren was also a delight — filling the big shoes left by recorded female artists with her accompanied stripped-down vocals to “Paris.”

The sillier devices, however, stalled the show. Multiple skits were performed and animations accompanying the music featured texting, emojis and FaceTime. It felt like a parody sketch of what millennials are assumed to find interesting, but rather than being funny, it was awkward and embarrassing. In addition, the duo wrongfully determined they needed to command the audience to raise their hands, jump, shout or — most notably — stick their middle finger up at least three times per song. Given the nature of their music, it’s unsurprising they felt compelled to make some use of their microphones. Yet after so many pleas to the audience, it felt desperate.

This excessive behavior was more welcome in other areas, however. The concert itself was supremely flashy. Outside of the most famous singles, other songs distinguished themselves with various special effects. In addition to cartoon animations, song lyrics and the keyboard frequently appeared on the big screen. This was undoubtedly another — more successful — attempt to interact with the audience, especially with lesser-known songs. These special effects looked tame in comparison to what occurred at the front of the stage. Every few moments, fireworks, fireballs, smoke or flashing lights would appear and inevitably cause the audience to go wild.

A great concert is in many ways contingent on the talent exhibited by the performers. While The Chainsmokers did everything they could to hide behind theatrics, there was something missing in their live performance. At the same time, though, that criticism feels unfair. A great concert is not solely based on talent — it’s based on audience experience, too. Using that criteria, it was an unambiguous success. The spectacles hiding their musical weaknesses also encouraged a good, carefree time. There was not a single person in JPJ not intoxicated by the thumping bass or catchy rhythms. Everybody stood, and most people danced. Maybe The Chainsmokers didn’t put on the best concert in the traditional sense — but it sure was a hell of a party.

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