REVIEW: The Chainsmokers concert lights up Cleveland


The Chainsmokers headline the annual FlashFest concert in the M.A.C. Center on April, 23, 2015. FlashFest was hosted by the Undergraduate Student Government.

Michael Nied

The Chainsmokers built a career around their ability to bottle moments of eternal youth in tightly packaged tracks.

Sure, their production is worth mentioning. The group, comprised of Alex Pall and Drew Taggart, developed a sound that blends elements of pop, indie and hip-hop with EDM productions.

They’re experts at building a beat and dropping it out from under, leaving listeners free falling for invigorating moments before rushing back with even more energy.

But it’s consistently those elements of youthful bravado and tenderness that elevate their work.

It’s the hooks and choruses that see them vowing to never let go of a lover, hooking up with an ex, building a fantasy world to escape reality and vowing to never grow up that makes their releases so relatable.

Pall and Taggart are the Peter Pans of the music world, and it’s a role they take seriously. It’s also a role that’s earned them a reputation as pop’s latest bros churning out hits with little growth between.

Kicking off the year with their debut album “Memories … Do Not Open,” Pall and Taggart set out to prove their naysayers wrong. Incorporating more vocals from Taggart and diving further into their productions, the album sets them up as more serious artists capable of doing it all.

Tuesday night, the pair touched down in Cleveland and took over Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center.

It was the eighth stop on a tour that’ll take the hit-makers across the globe — and Pall and Taggart lit up the city with an electrifying performance.

The pair was preceded onstage by opening acts Canadian DJ Shaun Frank and Kiiara.

Frank dropped supersized beats, treating the audience to bold, bass-driven remixes of popular tracks and hot club beats. Kiiara meanwhile delivered an ethereal (if icy) set with impressive vocals and minimal audience interaction.

Emerging from behind a screen, The Chainsmokers opened their set with a short skit before Taggart took the mic to perform “The One.”

Reflecting on their sudden rise to fame and the struggles of being on the road, Taggart laments a failed relationship over a sparse production.

The tender moment was followed by the siren call of synth and rumble of bass punctuated by explosions of smoke, the whoosh of fireballs and the crackle of fireworks.

Cycling through a set lush with material, Pall and Taggart touched down on all their major releases. They performed most of the material from their “Memories … Do Not Open” as well as deeper cuts like 2014’s “Kanye” and remixes of track’s like Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High).”

Pall and Taggart oscillated between commanding the beat from behind a mixing board in a typical EDM fashion and embracing their pop roots with more involved staging and even a choreographed dance or two.

Throughout the evening, the pair played a variety of instruments and leapt across the stage with boundless energy.

Taggart’s vocals on tracks like “Paris” and “Break Up Every Night” were stronger than ever and perfectly balanced with the production.

Every action was designed to breathe more life into the arena. The duo performed on moving set pieces and in front of colorful videos. A series of screens projected footage of the pair onstage, and pyrotechnics dazzled at all moments.

The pair shared the stage with a drummer and a pianist who rounded out the electronic elements of their staging, and they welcomed frequent collaborator Emily Warren onstage to deliver vocals on tracks throughout the set.

Warren’s evocative vocals helped bring the show to a close and soared over the bold production of “Don’t Let Me Down.” After an evening of nonstop music, the final notes reverberated into silence followed by applause.

The strong guitar line and soaring vocals of “Don’t Let Me Down” closed the set; however, the night’s highlight came during the pair’s performance of “Roses,” the 2015 hit that started it all.

The pair transitioned into the track’s dreamy soundscape, mixing it in amidst their club production. They struck on magic as the production dropped out, and in perfect unison the audience belted the chorus that started it all: “Say you’ll never let me go.”

It was the sound of an audience perfectly entranced and unlikely to let go anytime soon. Cue the explosions. That’s something worth celebrating.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer, contact him at [email protected].