The image was striking: five banks of keyboards spread like a wall across the entire front of the stage of the Paradise on Saturday. There was a guitar as well, and a drum kit in the back, but there could be little doubt what would drive the music of Hot Chip.
Eschewing the simple pleasures of synth-pop in favor of a looser, more danceable style, the London band updated the electronic template laid down by Kraftwerk, leapfrogging early-'80s new wave in the process. Dressed in unassuming T-shirts and hoodies and hunched over their workstations, the band members came on like tech nerds with an itch.
Even so, Hot Chip lacked the relentlessness of pure techno, despite heavy disco beats that prompted seemingly everyone in the packed room to dance in one way or another: bodies shaking, shoulders twisting, or even just heads bobbing. The live drums that bolstered the programmed beats were invaluable, providing a depth that might have eluded the performance otherwise. When they kicked in after the first chorus of "And I Was a Boy From School," the song took off.
The other nonelectronic instruments also helped to mix things up, from the congas and agogo bells of "Shake a Fist" to Al Doyle's scratching guitar in "The Beach Party." Amid these and the layered keyboards, singer Alexis Taylor's soft, utilitarian voice faded halfway into the background on most of the songs.
That didn't have any negative impact on songs like "Crap Kraft Dinner," which had the chord changes, organ sound, and lyrics (LCD Soundsystem shout-out notwithstanding) of a soul classic given a laptop-age reboot. With 12 songs in an hour and a half, each number seemed like an extended dance mix, finding its groove and digging it deeper as it went. When Taylor sang "The joy of repetition really is in you" during closing anthem "Over and Over," Hot Chip was simply calling it as it saw it.
Drums/keytar combo Shy Child opened with fractured, hyperactive beats and heavy synth bass lines undergirding treble stabs, but far too many requests to the soundperson made singer Pete Cafarella seem petulant. Shy Child was followed by Born Ruffians, who were buoyant and nervy like early Talking Heads and Jonathan Richman, whose "New England" they covered.