review: the chemical brothers 'don't think'

 

Last night, at least in my part of the world, was the one-night event screening of the Chemical Brothers‘ concert film Don’t Think. As director Adam Smith said in an interview shown prior to the film, it took some arm twisting to finally get this made. Chem Ed Simons was afraid the live experience wouldn’t translate and felt it best left to the fraternity of people who’ve actually seen it in person.

I did see them in ’97 with The Orb at the dearly departed Bomb Factory in Dallas, but it was nowhere near the sensory overload of Don’t Think. Smith — who has been leading the visual team for Chemical Brothers shows since the early days in Manchester — did a magnificent job of capturing the feeling of being there.

Filmed with 21 cameras at the 2011 Fuji Rock Festival, the film is literally like tripping balls with 50,000 Japanese hipsters.

First, the incredibly varied camera angles make Don’t Think a revolutionary concert film. Your perspective is never static. You are taken above the stage, into the crowd, to the outskirts of the venue, into the massive video screen and ‘behind the curtain’ to see Tom and Ed’s knob twiddling up close. Editing and post effects add even more to the truly visceral experience.

Second, the choice of location was brilliant. The respectful and giddy Japanese crowd are ideal subjects who bring an otherworldly quality to the rather trite idea of a concert film. You sense their intensity as they wait impatiently for the buildup, you sympathize when the camera catches an audience member in a “bad trip” moment, and you well up with joy when the crowd explodes with emotion.

I had trepidations heading into the movie — afraid I would get bored, or worse be taunted into an epileptic seizure. Ultimately, I loved it. The Chemical Brothers (and stadium electronic acts in general) are best understood and appreciated in a live, communal setting, and Don’t Think is the closest approximation to that ever captured on film.

Even though I only saw it with maybe 20 other people, only three of whom got up and danced until they were ‘busted’ by the usher, I felt afterward that I had been to an amazing show. The sound was cranked and the visuals were arresting, with evil clowns, breakdancing shadows, marching robots and gleaming lasers. And the mashup of “Galvanize” with “The Brothers Gonna Work It Out” was mind-blowing.

If you ever have the opportunity to see this, do it… not sure at this point if there will be a return engagement or DVD release (UPDATE: Don’t Think now on DVD/Blu-ray/CD – watch two clips at the end of the post). In the meantime, check out some live footage from that 2011 Fuji set below. Keep in mind, these are NOT from the movie, so they barely scratch the surface of what Don’t Think has to offer. Still, this is pretty damn cool:

UPDATE
Check out “Don’t Think” and “Star Guitar” from the film:

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