Despite its obvious appeal as a bucket list venue to local and international artists, there remains a serious question over the suitability of the Opera House concert hall and opera theatre for amplified contemporary music.
To be fair, reasonable (but still rarely excellent) sound is more often achieved these days. I presume that's because visiting sound engineers are more experienced with, or taking advice on, how to work the rooms, But it's still not an ideal space sonically, with the added issue that in some cases there remains a kind of natural barrier of formality – which can work beautifully, as with Bill Callahan last year, but often can make things a little stifling.
Yet counter-intuitively, this "why you, why here, why now?" issue seems not to extend to joyous electronic music. Whether it's Caribou, Daniel Johns in the most recent Vivid Festival or this most vivid 90 minutes from Hot Chip, the concert hall in particular can become the best atmosphere for shared and exhilarating fun. And fun was had from first second to last. Such fun.
Propelled by the machine-with-heart drumming of Sarah Jones, who was such a revelation three years ago and was the not-so-secret star of this show, Hot Chip made dancing easy, grinning a natural move and pleasure a default setting.
The first half hour in particular, with Huarache Lights, Night And Day and Love Is The Future among the pickings, and the encore that climaxed in a mash up of Bruce Springsteen and LCD Soundsystem, were like sustained shots of happy juice. Everyone danced because it seemed silly to even contemplate not doing so and most of us sang or clapped or hung a hand up because it didn't occur that anything else mattered.
Through the night we got songs where choppy Chic guitars, '80s funk bass and motorik drums merged under the rule of a cracking pop melody, and others where guitarist/bassist/synth player Al Doyle threw in some Robert Fripp guitar sounds or percussionist/bassist/guitarist Rob Smoughton just got down.
We found that a deliberate pull back/lull in tempo, to give us (or them) a breather, could be effortlessly cranked up with the '80s house mix of groove and gospel in Need You Now. And that a brief moment of cheesy formation dancing from Smoughton, Doyle, vocalist/keyboardist Alexis Taylor and synth/bassist Owen Clarke could be amusingly uplifting.
Most of all we found we really were having the best time. In the concert hall. Go figure.
Hot Chip play 170 Russell, Melbourne, on January 24; The Tivoli, Brisbane, January 27; Fremantle Arts Centre, January 29