November 12, 2019

Review by Rick Kramer
Photos by David Urmanski

Grammy Award-winning, chart-topping, DJ/artist/producer duo, The Chainsmokers, performed at the Fiserv Forum on Tuesday as part of their WORLD WAR JOY tour which kicked off in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 25th. Multi-platinum band, 5 Seconds of Summer, joined them as direct support along with rising pop star Lennon Stella as the show opener.

Newly turned solo artist, Stella, often thanked those concert-goers who “came early” to catch her performance.  She ran through a set of songs that is prevalent for female pop-artists today which included rap and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) influenced numbers with catchy melodies and hair-raising harmonies.  Where Stella stands out is in the delivery of her distinctive soft and smokey tone with much of her set being sung in the mid to upper-mid range although there were several occasions where she ventured up the ladder effortlessly, belying a power that is not immediately evident in her understated style.  The half-full arena of early-birds managed some pretty loud applause with most of them already knowing the lyrics and singing along.  The young singer was clearly pleased and humbled by the crowd participation and was caught smiling ear-to-ear throughout her set.

Direct supporting band and special guests for the evening, 5 Seconds Summer, was an unadulterated triumph.  If it was their job to bring the rock, they did it with a vengeance.  During the inception of their lively 60-minute set, the Australian quartet crushed a turbo-charged version of Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” and proved their legitimacy as rockers time and time again throughout the evening with energetic prowess, strong, spot on vocals and harmonies and tight musicianship with the guitarists sharing lead duties throughout the set.   It was also entertaining to watch flamboyant drummer Ashton Irwin’s facial expressions channel the music through every fiber of his being as he twirled both arms and drumsticks. Later in the show, 5SOS’s performance with The Chainsmokers during of their collaboration “Who Do You Love” also proved to be a high point of the evening.

World War Joy is the title of The Chainsmoker’s upcoming album set to be released soon with an official release date yet to be announced and the corresponding North American leg of the tour running through the end of the year with a New Years Eve performance in Las Vegas.  Although billed as a duo, comprised of Drew Taggart and Alex Pall, the show was performed as three piece with drummer Matt McGuire in tow. The trio emerged from the left side of the stage, each with a lit flare in hand. After holding their flames to the sky in Olympian fashion, they broke formation and ran to different sections of the stage to light fuses which erupted in fireworks mere moments later and ultimately into an auditory and visual assault of  EDM and special effects. It was an appropriate opening for a highly-anticipated show that would offer one over-the-top moment after another, often leaving the ecstatic crowd wondering what was coming next.

The young crowd was thoroughly engaged and dancing and singing along to every song in the set.  This kind of intense devotion is normally reserved for the greatest pop icons of our time and is a testament to the strength of The Chainsmokers catalogue.

Many of the band’s hits include guest vocals, and in this vein the duo brought out both opening acts and co-collaborators for their respective shared numbers.  Both of these performances proved to be high-points of the evening and drove the crowd into a frenzy with Lennon Stella re-appearing to the stage for a valiant performance of the duet show opening number “Takeaway.”

The Chainsmokers also used creative ways to include former collaborators such as Chris Martin (“Something Just Like This”), Halsey (“Closer”), Daya (“Don’t Let Me Down”) and Bebe Rexha (“Call You Mine”) through the use of animated ‘heads’ displayed on the HD screens, or by having Taggart singing with the lead track. The music rarely stopped and the infectious beats continued between songs and during other ‘events’ in a steady stream of dubstep and EDM along with bass tracks that were often so low that it would tighten one’s throat.

While the production was elaborate, it was not excessive and corresponded marvelously to the settings of the songs and would be worthy eye-candy for any major pop act on a world tour.  Complete with high definition video, lasers, strobes, explosions and pyro, the pageantry also included a wide catwalk that extended well out into the arena, an elevated platform within catwalk as well as a large, steel, sphere ball that Taggart spent time crawling in during his performance.

When two motorcyclists rode onto the stage with multi-colored ‘exhaust’ and ‘smoke’ billowing out of the bike’s tailpipes, while doing donuts on the walkway, the already lavish performance took on an entirely different feel as if the audience was transported to a carnival or the circus to witness a spectacular stunt.  Later in the show, three stunt riders entered the sphere together and turned it into a Globe of Death, which is a fitting name for a officially recognized stunt by the Guinness Book of World Records, where three motorcyclists ride in a metal cage, looping vertically and horizontally, to create a gyroscopic visual.  For the coup de grace, the massive X-shaped lighting trusses, which had been telescoping and raising and lowering all night long, turned into a giant staircase during the final number.

During another crowd pleasing moment, Taggart pulled a dance partner from the audience to boogie to a beat being played between songs. The dancer was extremely talented, and sort of a contortionist, only adding to the circus-like atmosphere.  However, the dancer proved to be so good that it makes one wonder how spontaneous the moment truly was.  Regardless, the audience was so fired up and didn’t have a care in the world so the gesture only added to further the ambiance of the evening.

Another climatic moment included McGuire’s phenomenal performance of a monstrous drum solo from a platform that rose from the center of the catwalk with the last minute of the solo being conducted with drumsticks ablaze.  Hearing and seeing Drew Taggert sing the closing number and smash hit-single “Closer,” was yet another showcase of the concert further demonstrating Taggert being more than “just” a DJ and earning the respect of the crowd as a traditional frontman.  This proved to be an unexpected wrinkle for what was billed as a “DJ” or “production” duo and allows for an event that can be classified as a rock-concert as much as a rave.

Alex Pall, on the otherhand, spent most of the show behind a rack playing keyboards and other electric instruments with Taggart occasionally by his side. He did, however, take to the mic to exhort the enthusiastic crowd, was often seen pumping his fist in the air and, about mid-way through the show, joined Taggert and McGuire on the catwalk for a number. Overall, the concert confirmed one thing to the concert-goers in attendance…there was no better way to spend a Tuesday night in November in Milwaukee.

Takeaway (with Lennon Stella)
Under the Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers cover)
Push My Luck
Cream (Federico Franchi cover)
Call You Mine
Don’t Let Me Down
Shout (The Isley Brothers cover)
Mo Bamba (Sheck Wes cover)
Get Ready for This (2 Unlimited cover)
Everybody Hates Me
Drum Solo
Sick Boy
Who Do You Love (with 5 Seconds of Summer)
Beach House
Split (Only U) (Tiësto & The Chainsmokers cover)
Say My Name (SAY MY NAME. cover)
Something Just Like This
The Grimm (John Christian cover)
Hard (Swen Weber & Jewelz cover)
This Feeling
Kernkraft 400 (Zombie Nation cover)
Olè (dabow cover)
Save Yourself

1 = Poor
2 = Average
3 = Good
4 = Excellent
5 = Extraordinary