Chemical Brothers go down smooth

As the parking lot filled with fans more familiar with community centre raves than English warehouses, one question came to mind: "Why the hell are the Chemical Brothers playing Calgary?"

The Max Bell, a venue appropriate for to Junior A hockey and the odd Marilyn Manson controversy, was about to play host to perhaps the world’s premiere techno duo.

Attendees filed in through medium security to find DJs already spinning. Providing a good atmosphere, several attempted to break out and excite the audience, but the crowd would not be swayed. Aside from a few ladies grooving to the appetizers, most refused to expend energy before the main course.

With anticipation building to a fevered pitch, an obvious break occurred which signalled fans of an arrival. The pause was something unusual for most techno shows which aim for smooth blends.

Slow but deliberate samples of the Beatles’ "Tomorrow Never Knows" met the crowd as the arena went black save a few blaring spotlights which coiled to the rhythm.

And then the loudest fuckin’ pa I’ve ever heard kicked in to give warning of impending barrage.

"Hey boy Hey girl" began the evening’s festivities.

Entering the danger zone, from the stage to back 20 feet, was the equivalent of being swallowed by sound. It was the kind of sound you feel in your hair follicles–total and binding.

With the Brothers hunched over their equipment, it seemed a little dumb to stare at the obscured men work furiously. Still, few moved to the rear of the arena to make use of extra dancing room.

Old favourites "Setting Sun" and "Block Rocking Beats" came off slamming hard in their entirety, then later the Brothers found space in newer material to insert just a taste of those classics. "Got Glint?" and "Sunshine Underground" followed with boisterous approval. "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" came off funkier than usual, the new arrangement giving fans a jiving thrill.

Five huge projection screens shone with everything from pulsing amoebas to odd blinking eyes. Lurching blue and red robots with evil grimaces advanced upon the audience. Psychedelic tarot cards and English slums all made an appearance. The well-thought-out show even used a jutting, white plaster wall for the projection, and the lighting crew made the most of the rink’s shiny, insulated ceiling.

The long-standing problem with playing old hockey rinks is the sound. It reverberates off the back wall then returns forward to the stage bringing with it a less-than-pleasant fuzz. For those who feared the sharp techno would suffer in the brick palace, their fears were quelled with three huge speaker stacks positioned around the hockey boards to channel the sound into the centre. Esoteric machinery lined the length of the stage. That, combined with the technological barricade which obscured the block-rocking duo, provided possibly the best sound ever heard at the Max Bell.

Lastly, and most sadly, after I refused to go to the Rebublik after-party, the Brothers arrived downtown as special guests and proceeded to rock the shit out of it, giving fans, who paid $7 for entry and an up-close and personal taste. I feel like a fool of the supreme sort.

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