Reviews

Chromatics @ 9:30 Club – May 22nd 2019

Chromatics @ 9:30 Club in Washington, DC on May 22nd, 2019

It’s been seven years since Chromatics last came to Washington, DC, when they played a show to a sweaty room at the Rock and Roll Hotel hot off of the buzz of their then-current fourth album Kill for Love, which saw the synth-pop group catapulted from genre cult favorites to a wider mainstream recognition (due, in no small part, to the use of the song “Tick of the Clock” on the soundtrack to the movie Drive a year earlier). In the time since, the band has been largely silent, releasing only a handful of singles in the intervening years (a fifth album announced in 2014, titled Dear Tommy, has still never materialized). In February, when the band announced their 2019 tour, there had to be some question – had the band squandered their brief brush with fame by not following up in so long, or would their audience still be excited to see their return?

The good news was that the band still has the draw, and perhaps managed to bring in even more fans with the intervening years. The 9:30 Club last Wednesday night wasn’t as uncomfortably packed as the show seven years earlier had been, but it was also a much larger room and still quite full. It took it a while to fill up – a shame for those who came late and missed three of the band’s label-mates, Tess Roby, In Mirrors, and Desire, who opened the show and all had their own takes on the synth-laden aesthetic that complemented the Chromatics sound well. But by the time Chromatics took the stage, the energy in the space was palpable.

If there was one downside to the band having gone for so long with so few releases, it was that the setlist from 2019 was, to a large extent, a repeat of the one from 2012. In fact, only three songs from that earlier set were missing, replaced by a few of those intervening singles. Yet it didn’t feel like an exercise in nostalgia, with singer Ruth Radelet still managing to entrance the audience as completely as she did in those years before. Perhaps because Chromatics sound so different from most of their contemporaries both in 2012 and 2019, their music manages to have a timeless quality to it that keeps it sounding fresh.

The band completes their current US dates on the west coast in June, and has said little of their future plans beyond a run of shows through Europe in October. But hopefully this new burst of activity is a sign that they’re back on track and it won’t be too long until we have some new music from them.

Chromatics set list

Tick of the Clock
Lady
Kill For Love
Night Drive
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 Live
Cherry
Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)

I’m On Fire
Shadow
Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)

Photos © Matt Condon

Chromatics

Desire

In Mirrors

Tess Roby

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