QUICK REVIEW: Chromatics + Desire

Chromatics live

Chromatics
Desire
In Mirrors

Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA 05/15/2019

Few shows have set off my “teenage concert hype-meter” more than this. It’s the first time any of these bands have ever played my home city of Atlanta, which means it’ll be at least five years before they’ll even consider coming to my adopted home city of Charlotte. I asked the missus if she wanted to go. She said no. I decided I wasn’t missing the chance, so a solo trip it was.

Johnny Jewel is the heart and soul of almost all the bands on his label, Italians Do It Better. He’s a full-time member of Chromatics, Desire, Glass Candy and Symmetry. He produces and contributes to most of the rest. He does soundtracks to films. If you’re old enough to remember when Ivo Watts-Russell ran 4AD Records back in the 80s… it’s kinda like that.

So: In Mirrors kind of sounds like Washed Out, if Washed Out were kinda going for the Twin Peakysy, Stranger Things vibe most Jewel’s bands have.

This is a good tune. Sadly, lead singerJesse Taylor just looks… awkward on stage. The music sounded fine, but he barely spoke above a whisper between songs, and just looked uncomfortable overall. Just RELAX. Take a deep breath, dude. You’ve got this!

By the time Desire came out the crowd behind me had swelled… with Desire! Hahaha – I’ll show myself out. They kicked off with fan fave “Mirroir Mirroir”, then the even more popular “Don’t Call”. “If I Can’t Hold You” followed, which was a bit of a surprise (I was thinking it’d be “Tears from Heaven”. After that, the biggest surprise of all: they launched in to a cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” “just for this tour”:

[Sorry, the video was yanked from YouTube!]

The sound in the video doesn’t do it justice. I hope they release some version – live or studio – because it was fantastic!

And speaking of, you know how you go to tons of shows and it’s all cool and everything… but once in a while, for some unknown reason, you hear a song live and you’re like “HOLY SHIT I’VE HEARD THIS SONG A MILLION TIMES BEFORE AND IT NEVER SOUNDED LIKE THIS BEFORE ‘COS THIS IS AMAZING!”… that kind of thing?

Well, Desire closed out with their one hit “Under Your Spell”, made slightly famous by appearing in some commercials and the 2011 Ryan Gosling film Drive. The song was absolutely fucking amazing live. It’s like, they somehow tweaked it for the live show and it somehow made the song even better? All I know is, the crowd behind me went nuts, and I looked back at one point and it looked like the entire venue was jumping up and down. Honestly, it was the highlight of the show for me.

Desire live
Part of that is because Chromatics played a much different set than I thought they would. Which, looking back on it, was good. Basically, it wasn’t the playlist I woulda picked, but Jewel picked a much better one – more balanced, more theatrical, a much better “this is Chromatics” playlist than I woulda come up with:

Tick of the Clock
Lady
Night Drive/Paradise
Back From the Grave
I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around
Time Rider
These Streets Will Never Look the Same
Blue Girl
I Want Your Love
Cherry
Into the Black

Encore:
I’m On Fire
Shadow
Running Up That Hill

The band sounded fantastic, and the guys put on a really good show. I just wish we coulda heard more stuff from the (alleged) new album Dear Tommy. If you’re out of the loop on this one, Dear Tommy was supposed to come out in 2014. But Jewel destroyed all physical copies of it after a near-death experience in Hawaii. He decided it “wasn’t nearly good enough”, so he started all over again. 4 years ago. I don’t know what you’d call Chromatics – indie pop? electropop? Whatever it is, Dear Tommy has become the Chinese Democracy of its genre. As you can see from the playlist, the show ended with several covers, and it’s amazing that Ruth Radelet single-handedly got me to like a Bruce Springsteen song, for God’s sake.

Chromatics live

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. It was a very good show, and I’m glad I went. The venue was nice – I go to shows there every 4-6 years and, oddly,  it somehow gets nicer every time. The staff were friendly and polite. I was one of the first x people through the merch line, so my t-shirt purchase ($25) was placed in a complimentary tote bag (normally $10) with two 12″ singles\EPs and an album inside, along with 5 folded posters. Nice! Too bad the “XXL” tour shirt is more like a Taiwanese L.