The Chainsmokers bring mediocre rave, action-packed performance to San Francisco

Skylar De Paul/Staff

A chaotic staging brightly lit with surprises around every corner welcomed the Chainsmokers to the Chase Center on Nov. 29. Glowing red bars hung in a pile like cluttered crayons — in a show of cages and pyrotechnics, it was clear that the Chainsmokers were not playing around with the production budget for the “World War Joy Tour.” 

From the start, fire was entwined with daredevil energy to form the theme of the night. Three people marched in holding torches as a tedious jumble of beats set the stage for the pseudo-rave to activate. Right away, Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall, the main DJs and faces of the Chainsmokers, appeared onstage to start the chaos of the show. 

The show-stealer of the night was by far drummer Matt McGuire, who tours with the duo and possesses unspeakable talent behind a drum set. When Taggart and Pall covered “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the magnetism and drive set by the fast drums provided a weighty energy to the room that sometimes just can’t be replaced by prerecorded tracks. 

As the hits like “Paris” and “Don’t Let Me Down” rolled out, covers were sown in the creases. But even the performance of “Mo Bamba” wasn’t as cheesy as the Chainsmokers’ original song “Everybody Hates Me.” Taggart squatted on the floor in a cloud of smoke as he sang the lyrics, “Walk into the club like everybody hates me.” Even though the song is inherently contrived, the theatrics of climbing onto platforms and saying “San Francisco, welcome to the circus” had everyone’s attention in the packed arena. 

After this number, a drum set rose from the center of the catwalk, McGuire taking the stage for an explosive solo — literally. As the night progressed, the special effects ran rampant. Taggart yelled, “Matt turn it up! A little bit more…” as McGuire’s drumsticks caught flame and green lasers shot out of the floor. McGuire played with expert intention, never missing a beat as the fiery sticks landed every shot. 

The cage which had been hanging hauntingly above the catwalk slowly lowered for “Sick Boy.” Taggart climbed inside for a frenzied performance, scaling the wired walls as he sang. Although the spectacle was grand, the cage felt way too extra for the slight tone change, making Taggart look like an edgy hamster. Unbeknown to audience members, however, this would not be the last time the cage appeared onstage. 

BMX bikes later rode out onto the catwalk, doing doughnuts and looking daring for no reason. The bikes almost didn’t feel worth it until the cage was lowered back down onto the stage. The bikes rolled into the sphere, speeding in thrilling circles as two women stood at the center of the risky tableau for the performance of “Somebody,” fittingly singing about fancy cars and supermodels. 

Later, Taggart’s “favorite band,” 5 Seconds of Summer, shared the stage for “Who Do You Love.” As one of the openers for the “World War Joy Tour,” 5SOS brought a more organic energy back to the stage. With the most live instruments of the show present for this song, the room felt fuller and more dynamic since the set switched paces so frequently.

As the rave energy returned to the set, it became understandable why some people use drugs to enjoy a Chainsmokers concert. “Beach House” led into a dance battle between Taggart and his friend Ross, whom he pulled onstage for the momentous beef. Appearing to be a trained dancer, Ross was fluid in movement and entertaining to watch. Taggart, on the other hand, seemed like he could use some work, but the efforts were playful and fun for fans to engage with. 

Ending with the classic “Ay-Oh” call and response by Queen, the Chainsmokers’ last hit of the night rang “Closer” as lyrics were sung back and forth with the crowd. All spectacles aside, the Chainsmokers gave a passionate performance that unfortunately seemed spread thin between sudden pace changes and distractingly turbulent displays.  

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected]. Tweet her at @skylardepaul.