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Drops, skits and iPods: The Chainsmokers in Auckland, reviewed

Avid Chainsmokers defender Joseph Moore went to see the Chainsmokers play Auckland’s Spark Arena on Tuesday night and survived the drop to tell us all about it.

I paid my own money to see The Chainsmokers. The Spinoff offered me free ones to review it but I had already paid seventy actual New Zealand Dollars for a seated ticket on a Tuesday night to see two dudes press play on an iPod.

I became deeply fascinated by the Chainsmokers after their breakout 2016 which saw them turn from EDM festival circuit mid-bill time-fillers to Billboard chart-dominators with a genuine skill for an ear-wormy hook. I’ve defended them wildly amongst my peers, though admittedly stopped paying attention around the time they released that Coldplay song.

As I took my seat, surrounded by a group of mums, a teenager on his own broadcasting the whole thing on Instagram Live, and what appeared to be a small toddler, I wondered how The Chainsmokers would adapt their live show from a macho festival boy-party to the all-ages midweek arena act they had inadvertently become.

And they apparently haven’t changed anything. After two hours of opening acts, the boys took the stage to a giant dubstep mash-up of all their most famous songs, a borderline genius “fuck you” to any notion of keeping cards close to your chest. Imagine the Stones opening with ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, ‘Wild Horses’, and ‘Paint It Black’ ALL AT ONCE. The theme of the show from then on was basically ‘fuck you’ to everything. Lead singer/DJ Drew Taggart repeatedly encouraged the crowd to hold up their middle fingers, they ran around on top of a big table, they had a song where a disembodied voice yelled “fuck you” at the audience before an ear-shattering drop.

And there were so many drops! For an hour-and-20 minutes, The Memories Do Not Open Tour was a relentless set, with endless trap beats (some the Chainsmokers own work, plenty of them borrowed), fire, smoke, giant emojis, and a big CGI Wolf with red eyes trying to bite the audience. One song was performed in front of police tape reading “DANGER: FRIEND ZONE”. Only occasionally did they slow things down: to perform one of their more sombre tracks, or to play a cartoon video of a guy going through a break-up and then standing on a bridge to send some texts.

PAAAARTY!! (PHOTO: KATE ROBERTSON)

I felt bad for Alex Pall, the guy with glasses who isn’t the singer. He also isn’t the DJ, and doesn’t produce the music. He had very little to do during the show, sometimes they made him go and stand next to a drum kit and hit a sample pad, but, for the most part, he was tasked with enthusiastic fist-pumping while Taggart took charge of all the live vocals and vaguely competent guitar playing.

In interviews, Pall has referred to himself as the “branding manager” of The Chainsmokers. So I guess he updates their Twitter during the show? Even during one of the show’s comedy sketch segments (oh yeah, there were comedy sketches), Pall is relegated to a punchline, with Taggart encouraging the crowd to “boo” him like a pantomime villain. He eventually redeemed himself with a good prop gag where he uses the show’s fire cannon to roast a marshmallow. And that was the best of about five prop gags.

Luckily for The Chainsmokers, the crowd were not there to critique their improv comedy skills (hit me on the DMs if you want notes, boys), but to lose themselves in 2016’s most recognisable dance anthems. Taggart didn’t have to sing a note during ‘Closer’, with a near full Spark Arena carrying the entire thing for him, and making up for the absence of Halsey, the song’s better half.

The lighting and fx design was, admittedly, sick bruh. Every flash and strobe was impeccably timed to the music, and I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of seeing those things that look like geysers of smoke. Having only one proper album behind them, they relied a lot on DJ-set gimmicks to fill the hour. Some worked, like a fun ‘Circle of Life’ singalong sung by a 99% white crowd who were definitely not making up Zulu gibberish. Others didn’t, like a weird bit where Drew just went on Spotify on his phone and played five seconds of ‘Sweet Caroline’.

By the end, the mums, teenagers, and toddlers around me were all on their feet, dancing wildly as The Chainsmokers played someone else’s song that goes “let me see you shake them titties, pop that pussy”. Drawn in by their radio-friendly sad bangers, I don’t know if it were what any of us expected. But for an hour and a bit, Tuesday night in Auckland felt like Tomorrowland or something, and I guess I’m grateful for the memories. Which I will put in a box and not open.


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