File this one under better late than never. The Chromatics played this wonderfully energetic show at the Wiltern at the start of May. And I had every intention of getting it assembled and online in a timely manner. But availability, motivation, and inspiration don’t always stick to my schedule. So here we are, on a rainy SoCal Sunday afternoon in what should’ve been a sunny and warm second day of the Memorial Day weekend. Hard to believe its raining in L.A. at this time of year.
Anyway, it might be strangely appropriate, since The Chromatics are from Portland, Oregon, which tends to sway towards precipitation and cloudy skies. Whatever the case, I’m just relieved to finally get this show prepped and posted for all to see, experience, love, hate, etc.
Let me just start by saying that I’ve always wanted to see The Chromatics perform live … for what seems like an eternity. I missed them last time around, which if memory serves, was six years ago, when they played the Hollywood Bowl. I know they haven’t toured in as many years, so I’m guessing my memory is on point. Over the years, I’ve heard from various sources that they sound incredible on stage, performing with an intensity and energy that only feels hinted at from studio recordings. That might seem a bit counter-intuitive, since their music, for the most part, is fairly low-key, stripped down, and chill … even when it’s not.
The Chromatics also float in that popular retro dream-pop bubble of neon-drenched nocturnal ’80s synthwave and Euro disco noir. These days, there’s a lot of acts that are taking that path … or one that runs a parallel course. I never really imagined the ’80s could be cool, especially witnessing a lot of it first-hand. But the decade is having its moment or two. And this fourpiece holds a deep connection to that era’s heart and soul, whether intentional or not. Plus, being featured in films like “Drive,” or television shows like the revival of “Twin Peaks,” only serve to reinforce that retro atmosphere and aura.
Interestingly, The Chromatics feature heavily in a number of television show soundtracks, as well as a few choice films. You can look all of that up, or scroll to the bottom for the Wikipedia link, if you’re interested. But I bring it up, because I’ve always felt their music has a cinematic appeal, not necessarily mainstream or pop, yet accessible all the same.
As previously mentioned, their Wiltern performance on May 2nd marked a return to the stage after a lengthy absence of six years. If we’re talking albums, add another year on top of that for the 2012 release of the seminal “Kill for Love.” The rumored “Dear Tommy” album that they’ve been working on still hasn’t been released. But the “Twin Peaks” track “Shadow,” as well as a handful of singles, have seen the light of day during the interim. So the Chromatics have been busy … sort of.
At least they’re back to touring, and consequently, I finally had the opportunity to see them. And I’ll just say that they don’t disappoint. In fact, they’re way more upbeat than I expected, and more infused with electronica than I would’ve given them credit for. I’m guessing that’s Johnny Jewel’s department, since he’s the main man when it comes to the construction and production. And then there’s Ruth Radelet’s dreamy vocal whispers, which are practically transcendent, exceeding every promise set forth on album.
Since I was standing in the pit, backed up against its rear wall, with little room to move, I chose to film a lot of the show, 11 songs in total. The video quality is strong, since I was close enough. The audio sometimes wavers a bit in volume. Not sure where that’s coming from. But it was surprisingly loud, so that might have something to do with it.
Below, you’ll find “Tick of the Clock” featured in “Drive,” and “Shadow, featured in “Twin Peaks,” as well as collection of singles spanning the last 12 years, such as “Kill for Love,” “Back from the Grave,” “Cherry,” and “Lady.” There’s also a trio of cover songs, which The Chromatics are known to do, albeit in their own uniquely lo-fi synthesized haze and glaze … Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” Neil Young’s “Into the Black,” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up that Hill.” Two slices of Americana and one bit Brit (Young’s Canadian, so close enough). But I think my favorite track performed was the enigmatic electronic opus “These Streets Will Never Look the Same,” featuring vocals via vocoder by guitarist Adam Miller.
The only track I wish they performed is their rendition of New Order’s “Ceremony,” which I praised and posted back in December. But I guess they can’t fill their set with too many cover songs. They’re just so damn good at them, though, making them entirely their own.
Anyhow, here’s 11 songs from The Chromatics, performed at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on 05.02.19 . Enjoy!
The Chromatics perform “Tick of the Clock” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Lady” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Kill for Love” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Back from the Grave” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Time Rider” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “These Streets Will Never Look the Same” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Cherry” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform Neil Young’s “Into the Black” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform “Shadow” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
The Chromatics perform Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” @ the Wiltern Theatre on 05.02.19.
And here’s The Chromatics’ setlist. It’s missing one track, “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around,” which was the sixth song in the set. Spotify seems to have misplaced that one, even though it dates back to 2014 or so. It was one of the tracks rumored to be on the yet-to-be-released “Dear Tommy” album. Otherwise, it’s all there, in all its well-rounded goodness. If you’re a fan of The Chromatics, it’s a near-perfect hitlist of everything you’d want to hear. If you don’t know them, then this is an excellent primer. And if you’re not interested, I can’t help you. For all those who give a shit, enjoy!