With New Orleans under a tornado watch on Monday night, funk band Chromeo blew into town and swept a packed crowd at Republic off its feet. The duo’s pop-tinged R&B had the audience dancing from the opening notes, on what otherwise could have been a dreary evening.
The band’s sound, which harks back to the 1980s and the late days of disco, relies on its only two musicians for a full range of synthesizers, drum machines, and thick bass, all supporting touches of rock guitar and falsetto vocals. The retro songs, though, balance just enough modern production – and an EDM-worthy light show in concert – to mostly avoid pained nostalgia.
Montreal natives Dave 1 and P-Thugg formed Chromeo in 2004, and have steadily seen their star rise in the years since. Their set Monday night reached back in their catalog, featuring many tracks from albums released in 2008 and 2010. The final song they performed during their encore, “Needy Girl,” dates back to their decade-old debut album. But the group also played about half of its latest record, released earlier this year (its title, “White Women,” seemingly refers to the band’s core audience, judging by Monday’s crowd).
As the new album name suggests, Dave 1’s lyrical themes tend toward womanizing, and they shine through in his performance style, too. Before launching into “Over Your Shoulder,” whose lyrics encourage a young woman to overcome her insecurities surrounding body image by hooking up with its author, Dave 1 requested that the ladies in the audience find a man’s shoulders to climb on top of. Many did, readily, and without any concerns of being objectified. There is undeniably something to Dave 1’s sleek-leather-jacket look, his cultivated and unwavering grin and his dark shades (maybe those Ray Bans stay on all show just to protect his eyes from the strobes? We all could’ve used a pair…). Rock stars are allowed to act like rock stars, after all, but between that moment, the lyrics, and the guitar-as-phallus posturing, the show veered lecherously toward regression instead of playful nostalgia. Dave 1 should stick with his disco jams as the only throw back — not his game with the ladies.
Some in the crowd might have hoped that New Orleans resident Solange Knowles would appear as a special guest to balance out the headliner’s testosterone display. The singer has been featured on two Chromeo songs: 2010’s “When the Night Falls” and this year’s “Lost on the Way Home.” A couple of fans even wielded cut-outs of Solange’s face, which they donned as masks from their perch atop a pair of burly male shoulders. But the hoped-for collaboration didn’t materialize on Monday night, and the band’s two members remained in the spotlight throughout the evening.