Show Review: Justice with The Rapture at The Fox Oakland, 4/17/2012

by Jonathan Pirro on April 18, 2012

The massive stage rig for Justice's set

The massive stage rig for Justice's set

2012 has already begun as the Year of the Dance Music Show, with electronic acts dominating some of the most popular venues worldwide and music festivals across the country. The Ultra Music Festival brought in 60,000 attendees per day this year; I Love This City, coming Memorial Day Weekend, plans to overflow AT&T Park with fans and over 40 huge acts of the dance music world. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the hot ticket to catch is on the club circuit: any highly-successful electronic act that packs their titanic stage show into an under-5000-people theater to shake the walls with earth-shattering bass and wild dancing. Though you’d normally be hard-pressed to find anything that isn’t pulsing house or swaying dubstep to pack a venue with concertgoers aplenty, the Fox Theater played their cards right in welcoming French dancemasters Justice to Oakland between their Coachella weekend visits, and the duo delivered brilliantly with precision, style, and a dizzying array of lights and sound.

Luke Jenner of The Rapture

Luke Jenner of The Rapture

Unlike many of their cohorts in the techno world, Justice’s music is built from a complex array of real-instrument sounds, along with some quality analogue synth love; thus, they’re better accompanied by an actual band for an opening act, rather than the seemingly-unending array of DJs that are often picked up (often locally) to kick off the evening. New York City rockers The Rapture were the selection for Tuesday night’s show, and started the night off with a bang, bringing their wildly catchy blend of dancing beats and post-punk swagger to those who had the good graces to arrive early. It took only a few songs to get their crowd of onlookers moving heavily to the music, which the band delivered with playfulness and precision, keeping relatively stoic onstage even as their set glittered and flickered around them. Singer Luke Jenner was most animated at the end of the set, when he abandoned his guitar in favor of a few jumps off his amplifier, though he did spend the entire set howling feverishly into the mic even when standing mostly still. As a method for warming the crowd up for what was to come, the Rapture performed their work magnificently, and had several shuffling crowds leaping up and down by the time they departed the stage.

The Rapture amid a haze of color

The Rapture amid a haze of color

Not content with simply schlepping a large podium onstage that possessed a minimalistic offset to the ballast of sonic fury that they would proceed to deliver, Justice’s rig was anything but subtle. In addition to their giant wall of analogue synth gear, offset in the middle by the band’s signature light-up cross, two stacks of nine amplifiers each were rolled in place to frame the duo on either side. Despite the first several minutes of the set only seeing the stage lit by the cross, the dials on the gear wall, and the spinning floodlights atop the amplifier stacks, the duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay appeared just in time for the curtain of hanging orbs to come to life, creating a shimmering display that enveloped the stage in a dazzling world of color and flying, pulsing shadows. The crowd’s enthusiasm and roars of joy seemed only to amplify with each new wave of lights that were introduced onstage, and with each movement that made up the long, steady performance, yet another set of bright colors and dancing strobes lit up the interior of the Fox Theater.

Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of Justice

Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay of Justice

While the crowd would most likely have been content just to dance for the 90-minute long set that Justice delivered, the pair were more than happy to add a few surprises into the mix to keep the onstage performance at a constant level of fascination. The main rig that the duo operated atop turned out to be two pieces, divided along one edge of the cross in the center, which split apart a few times during the set to reveal a brightly-lit desk and piano. For many moments in the set, the men of Justice traded duties in traveling down to play out the solo keyboard piece centered in the middle of a breakdown when their rig broke apart in the aforementioned fashion. About two-thirds of the way through the evening, several clusters of plastic tubes lifted up behind and on either side of the pair, shimmering like a transparent, multihued organ, accenting the organ notes that came into play at that moment during the set. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Justice set without the stacks of amplifier cabinets themselves coming to life, each completely filled with glowing LEDs that pulsed, shimmered, threw patterns, and otherwise kicked the level of illumination onstage sky high.

A mindbending blast of light

A mindbending blast of light

While the crux of the performance was a single massive mix of many songs commingled together, individual songs could be picked out from time to time. The band blended pieces from their first record  seamlessly with new works from Audio, Video, Disco, often creating hybrids that blurred the line between when one started and the next began. Because of pieces like the title track of the latter record, the tempo jumped back and forth throughout the evening, moving from a standard house stomp to a jumping, thundering rush — often with a slow buildup, but with the occasional unexpected jump between speeds as well. The aforementioned song “Audio, Video, Disco” closed the set, and the duo returned for two more numbers to close out the night, at the stomping, screaming, and ecstatically howling insistence of their crowd.

Lit amidst a hail of strobes

Lit amidst a hail of strobes

As one of the biggest electronic acts of today, it’s easy for Justice to be on everyone’s radar, but for me, they possess a brilliant method of crafting melodies. Blending minor chords and brilliantly crisp drumbeats, with heavily processed guitar loops and warm synth sounds, they create an incredibly catchy and intelligent breed of dance music. While many other acts like to possess their own spotlight and simply add spinning lights and logos to the screens around them, Justice abandons dizzying arrays of color for a flood of warm and cool white lights, and sticks to stark, straight lines in their onstage setup. The unyielding precision in their style and delivery is unique amongst the rulers of the dance music scene, and with the speed of ticket sales and enthusiasm of their crowd, it is only a matter of time before they are headlining electronic music festivals worldwide.

The Rapture's setlist

The Rapture's setlist

Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2012 Jonathan Pirro.

Jonathan Pirro

Off-kilter multimedia enthusiast.

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