The Chainsmokers At Forest Hills Stadium, Saturday, June 10th, 2017, Reviewed
Whatever hip may be, it isn’t EDM duo Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall, two twenty somethings working their way through the 20s, but whatever is hit material, that’s these two, otherwise known as The Chainsmokers. At OneLove Manchester, Chris Martin stopped the show dead with their “Something Just Like This” (he took the lead on the single as well), and on Saturday evening at Forest Hills, they threw the song away near the end. The Chainsmokers have so many hits they are flippant with them, they are so hot they define pop 2017 the way Elton John defined pop in 1974. More than Max Martin and Shellback and Jeff Bhasker, CS are front and center, more than Avicii and Calvin Harris, they are pop avatars, more than Jack Antanoff, their own songs are hits for them. Young, callow, filled with drugs to keep em mollified and girls who break up every night, the Chainsmokers is the story of two young guys on the loose in New York in 2017 and that’s what the story is. While majorly dissed the way Coldplay are majorly dissed, by which I mean without an eye on the charts, the duo are huge in the singles arena.
On Saturday night, the last night of their Memories… Do Not Open Open tour, which might be more moving if they weren’t about to start a Vegas residency, Forest Hills was slam dunked hi fived sold out. The bowl was general admission and so was the floor, and everywhere you looked there were girls from age 8 – 25, dressed to impress, dancing and swinging as though they’d lost their minds. The Chainsmokers responded with a set that bounced from mediocre house to first rate pop songs. Alex Pall handles the drop the bass stuff, and he has a hi tech DJ booth and can craft a big moment off other people’s song from Panic At The Disco to Biggie Smalls to Foreigner. But in the world of Guetta and Tiesto and Boyz Noize (don’t even mention Drop The Lime), he isn’t all that. And he isn’t why the Chainsmokers is happening…
Andrew Taggart is the reason the Chainsmokers is so big. Andrew looks like a twink (they both look boy band queer friendly) and has a strong, though not overpowering voice. He is very athletic, dances very similar to Future and Stormzy –that knees bend, high kick, higher jump skip move, and he takes the lead on all the showstoppers and they have a few. Nobody is writing better pop than these guys right this second: from minor hits like “Honest” to major global smashes like “Closer,” “Something Just Like You,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “The One,” to couldn’t be betters “Break Up Every Night,” and “ Bloodstream,” and these are all terrific songs. Catchy tracks, intelligent, sexy, deep beats that never over powere, huge MASSIVE hooks, nice lyrics, and tuneful tunes. The Chainsmokers haven’t even reached their second album yet.
The way Andrew tells it, Andrew and Alex became friends in New York City in 2012, DJ’d in small clubs, moved onto bigger clubs, released their breakthrough novelty hit “#Selfies” and never looked back and that sounds about right. Their songs are about those days and nights in New York City –sort of they’re wide awake, it’s morning over and over again, with coked up girls who meet em and break up with them. The performance is just by the numbers modern pop concerts , Andrew’s delivery is too much a part of a larger CS show and he has too much on his mind to sell it thoroughly. Nobody blames Andrew for giving the audience the hook, obviously it is the done thing, but he doesn’t take it back.
Ah yes, the audience was overwhelmingly attractive, white, and middle class, and they reacted with complete enthrallment, every fireworks display (there were four) just another reason to lose their shit. The constant movement in the bowl was irritating but the movers were still paying attention and still rewarding the band with huge love. Opening act DJ Lost Frequencies got overwhelmed by the size of the stadium and by a way way long 45 minutes to fill, Kiiara is a pretty good EDM songstress with one killer song, “Dopemang” but that’s about it. Dianne Warren sang lead on a couple of CS hits, and shared vocal duties on “Paris”.
But the night belonged to Andrew, a man who is nearing the top of the pops along with Alex: it is the mix of sexual tension and childishness along with the serious intent, the nearly grown dream heart cruel girls and cocaine and late nights that he exemplifies. Completely dismissed by critics, they have the lowest rated score on Metacritic with an awful 43%, they justify affection and interest with enormous pop skills. Here is Rolling Stone: “Riddled with resentment and lyrics that land with a self-serious thud…” Here is the Observer: “This is Trump-pop: shallow, always betraying its influences…” One more? Pitchfork: “It is an anodyne pop record for a post-EDM world…” This is nonsense of a high order, of course. On stage, CS aren’t great (but better than when I caught em last year at Jingle Ball), the two sides of the pop MOR Pop and slow fizz EDM don’t mash as well as they should live. But for the most part they hit their spots with the hits and if I had any doubts I was alone in them. The audience went crazy. Look, If the Chainsmokers keep releasing songs as great that one about the girl with seven different personalities every one a tragedy, I’ll be right there with them… with Pitchfork’s permission, of course.