Chromeo lights up Independent stage with neon and New Age ’80s

Caitin Kelley/Staff

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Chromeo, the Quebecois electrofunk duo of Dave 1 and P-Thugg, played a steady stream of its New Age ’80s jams at The Independent in San Francisco on April 12.

The set was chock-full of oldies but goodies, especially from the duo’s first three LPs, including “Bonafied Lovin,” “Tenderoni” and “Night by Night.” The latter, a he-said-she-said rumination on dramaticism and romance, opened the night as a surprising slow jam self-adaptation that weaned the show into unstoppable revelry. As the temperature picked up, so did the tempo.

The decked-out customization of the musicians’ instruments created an environment that literally echoed their aesthetic. The talk box, 808s and signature fancy footwork of the duo’s keyboard stands attached to lit-up lady legs were all predictably present. The chrome-plated guitar physically embodied both Chromeo’s name and sound with its shiny yet dirty sheen.

This surface is a synecdoche for content, which on first glance focuses on superficial themes like sex, dancing and life as suave Funk Lordz. However, the duo’s shtick is messing around with already established tropes. Dave 1’s perfected yet playful posturing during frequently soaring guitar solos showed that these are guys who’ve studied their rock-god roots and adapted them as two goofy guys playing against type. This sensibility was bolstered by a light show that was so blindingly bright that it forced onlookers to wear their sunglasses at night.

This show comes at the forefront of the upcoming May 12 release of Chromeo’s new album, White Girls. The two announced their new album over a Craigslist missed connections ad, and I have one of my own: Dave 1, if you’re reading this, I was the girl in the pink windbreaker who was poppin’ and lockin’ for you.

The set was mostly lacking in fresh material, but the new songs the duo did play showcased a preview of the direction it will take. “Jealous (I Ain’t With It),” the fourth single off White Girls, is a relatively radio-friendly potential hit with a hook reminiscent of a Katy Perry single. But Chromeo is maintaining its business-casual aesthetic, as it doesn’t sound overproduced given the hints of slick grit that were still present in the performance. The group played such a tight show, in multiple senses of the word, that the gyrating audience was totally with it.

White Women will feature contributions from the likes of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Solange and LCD Soundsystem’s Pat Mahoney. The downside of playing off an album full of prominent guest artists has to be their lack of availability on tour. However, Chromeo’s rendition of “Come Alive” sans Toro y Moi proved vivacious indeed. The duo has mastered the ability to carry the weight of synthesizing soundscapes on its own.

Contact Caitlin Kelley at [email protected].