When Stereolab played La Zona Rosa for the Chemical Chords tour

Expectation buzzed about the crowded chamber…Stereolab were about to play! I don’t know what everyone else was waiting for, but for me, the tension anticipated the best band on the planet. And yet, watching them set up their own equipment, they seemed not like world-historical art-rockers to rival More Songs About Buildings and Food/Fear of Music-era Talking Heads or Fragile-era Yes or whatev-era Can or Eno and Cluster or Fripp and Belew. Nope, Stereolab manifest as regular rock-people about to play a gig, unwinding patch-cords and plugging into amps, etc. As the lovely, talented (and regrettably crypto-Marxoid) Latetia Sadier zipped across the stage to tweak the parameters or to modulate the controls on her gear, not quite ready sorry folks pardon moi, I had a sense of the gap between reality and my obsessed-upon representation of Stereolab, i.e., the Band Who Changed My Life. It’s just a band, man. Have a beer, stop thinking so much.

Themselves did Appear, and they Had It Together. Latetia smiled at the sardine-pack’d devotees, and sweetly assured us they had a lot of songs to play…a good thing since Stereolab has a back catalog with much beloved material dating from the early 1990’s. Then affable bassist Simon Johns launched into “Come And Play In The Milky Night”, and off we were. The coterie of studio obsessives led by the strangely obscure aesthete Tim Gane played several sprightly art-pop creations from the brand new Fab Four Suture such as “Interlock” and “Eye of the Volcano”, proof that the complex ensemble with near occasions of prog can also submit three minute focused rock moments for our delight. Energy was building in the room, brass and analog synths were exciting the crowd of smarty-pants adults…everyone was ready to go to the next level. Unexpectedly, the ‘Lab graced us with “Pack Yr Romantic Mind”, a pure moment of cosmic romance, causing this already unbalanced soul to swoon in woozy, needy reverie. The rest of the room got there in a hurry with the opening basslines of the semi-hit “Miss Modular”, which suggests color-bursts formed into dynamically unfolding geometric forms, like little jewels. Too much aching beauty for the polite concert-goer!

On they churned, pulsed, bleeped, chords melted each other away, harmonies evoked the world of pure forms, subversive gorgeousness abounded, multi-colored hues vibrated the headspace of us terrestrial denizens. Then they stopped, and we came back down.

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