Chromatics @ SAT – 25th May 2019

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OK, I have to get this out of the way: I really hate tonight’s venue, Société des Arts Technologiques (more commonly known as S.A.T.).  If you’ve never been: basically, it’s a huge concrete floor.  It’s like watching a gig in a Warehouse.  Concrete pillars poke up at regular intervals around the flat floor, creating various view obstructions for anyone not standing in the middle of the room with the stage dead-ahead, and there are no balconies, raised areas, steps… nothing.  Just a flat floor.  It’s a place where only the tall survive.  With a standing capacity of 1060, you can add “stifling heat” to that list too, on the occasions where the show is sold out (such as tonight).  Certainly, only an event as big as the return of Portland’s Chromatics to Montreal would get me in that room again.

And so here I am!  Its been 13 years since Chromatics last Montreal show, at the long-defunct Zoobizarre on St. Hubert, so long ago that it pre-dates the arrival of frontwoman Ruth Radelet, the unmistakable face of the band these days.  And a show that was “nowhere near as good as it was tonight,” according to guitarist/keyboardist/producer Johnny Jewel towards the end of the show.

The lights dim around 11.30 pm and the speakers begin to pulse a thumping electronic distortion in the form of the instrumental Tick Of The Clock, featuring the whole band minus Ruth, who appears at the end of the song to lead into Lady, adding her angelic soft vocals to the heavy beats.  She seems genuinely thrilled to announce, “thank you so much for being here, this is my first show in Montreal!”  After a huge round of cheers welcomes her and the rest of the band, the unmistakable Kill For Love elicits the first big singalong of the night. 

The entire set feels like a welcome-home party from start to finish.  I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around is quite the visual spectacle, with strobes blaring in time with the unrelenting beat and the projections on the huge screens that span the width of the stage.  The soft vocal intro of new song Time Rider contrasts markedly with its dance chorus before things go to an almost techno level on These Streets Will Never Look The Same which follows immediately after.  I Want Your Love is yet another club anthem in a set full of them.  Their cover of Hey Hey, My My closes out the main set to rapturous applause.

Things go dark momentarily before the projection screens jolt back to life, and a computerized voice begins to describe Montreal (to another flurry of cheers), and other random words follow.  After a short while, Ruth reappears on the stage alone with a guitar for a delicate cover of the wonderful I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen, which sounds magical (and a huge diversion from the club anthems!).  The rest of the band rejoins her for a raucous bass-funk rendition of Shadow, before a final cover of Running Up That Hill by Kate Bush, which is significantly more techno than the original!  The show wraps up for good just before 1 am.  After the rest of the band leaves the stage, Johnny hangs around there for a full 5 minutes or so talking to the crowd, further effusing about how much he and the band enjoyed the show: “you have no idea what this means, we spent so much time in this city, half our set was recorded here!  Everyone backstage is saying this was the best night of the tour!”  After confessing that they lived on St Viateur bagels while they were here (the best bagels in the city apparently), he fires off one final “merci, je t’aime!” and departs the stage too. 

There’s no question that Montreal loves you right back!

Tick Of The Clock
Kill For Love
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
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) (Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)

I’m On Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) (Kate Bush cover)

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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