The Chainsmokers returned to headline Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Saturday, September 3rd with an encore show on the 4th. Dubbing the pair of Colorado shows and two recent dates in Los Angeles as The Party Never Ends, the group teased the start of “a new thing” on social media. Having been almost exactly seven years to the day since they played the Rocks, fans showed up in droves to catch the festivities before Labor Day. Bringing epic stage production, new songs, and a third member to the show, the group did not disappoint! They also invited some friends to help shift the party into high gear.
Kicking Off the Festivities
Getting the party started and providing laughs between sets on both nights was a comedic introduction by viral jokester Trevor Wallace. On night two, he masqueraded as security as he came onstage. Speaking to the Colorado crowd, Wallace made light of the quantity of Subaru drivers in the state, one of his popular bits.
The music began each evening with a performance by Swedish production duo NOTD (pronounced ‘noted’), made up of Tobias Danielsson and Samuel Brandt. Their clever moniker originated from a word puzzle created by reversing the last two letters of each member’s last name. Bringing synth-heavy dream-pop sounds, NOTD’s performance was reminiscent of early Chainsmokers’ works, even including female vocals and live performance components.
Between the groups, English producer Samuel George (S.G.) Lewis brought his joyful, methodical beats to the stage. Watching his set, I felt Lewis relished sharing his creations with the crowd. Between looks of intensity, childlike grins, and having a single (no chain!) smoke on stage, the vibe was blissful and bubbly. Starting with a more chill performance, he steadily built momentum as he helped the crowd overcome their holiday food comas. One surefire way to make that happen is by calling on the sounds of hype queen Taylor Swift to provide a backing track for a club-ready mix.
I Like Big Beats, and I Cannot Lie!
The Chainsmokers, real names Alexander (Alex) Pall and Andrew (Drew) Taggart, brought more beats to their already vigorous stage production. Matt McGuire, drummer and music director for their live shows and music videos, joined the duo and matched their passion onstage. McGuire set up behind the production equipment on a platform designed to raise and lower on command. A comical moment arose from this feature on night two. Taggart called for the stage crew to bring the drum kit back up, only to have them lower it within seconds as the next song kicked in. Sorry, Matt!
But don’t feel too bad for the instrumentalist, as Taggart later referred to him as the most talented member of The Chainsmokers. McGuire also had one of the highlights of both nights. Watching him play with drumsticks set ablaze as a virtual ring of fire encapsulated the drum set onscreen was mind-blowing.
Stepping Up to the Plate
Following up two nights of Rezz Rocks may be intimidating for some groups, but The Chainsmokers welcomed the challenge. Bringing a dubstep-infused opening and hot visuals, the group came out swinging. The crowd felt the heat as a gigantic dragon on screen paired with pyrotechnics for a fire-breathing effect. Set to the new track “Self-Destruction Mode,” the dragon was introduced by eyeballing the crowd. As the beat dropped, its head reared, its mouth agape and spewing flames. At this point, the inferno ignited, bringing the fans to a roar.
Not letting up for a moment, the trio seamlessly weaved in pieces of their classic “Don’t Let Me Down,” and the first verse of Panic! At The Disco hit song “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” There was no time to stop for a toast as the group bounced back to dub-heavy beats to close out with “Self-Destruction Mode.”
Storytelling via Screens
In the next track, high-energy drumming was paired with the introduction of visuals featuring an Onna-musha — a female warrior similar to a Samurai. The sword-wielding fighter showcased her skills as the percussion pounded. Continuing the onscreen storytelling, visuals of a serene country farmhouse set the backdrop for building audio momentum. As the intensity grew, the serenity turned to chaos, and the screens seemed to shake with fury. Soon, the farmhouse was engulfed in flames, hinting the dragon was nearby. The tale was unfolding, setting the stage for an epic battle to be unveiled later in the set.
But more on that later…
Larger Than Life
Pall and Taggart blasted heavy jungle beats next while the backdrop of a 50-foot-tall animated dancer grooved to the music. The set continued with dance vibes and dream pop, highlighted by visuals on the gigantic screen. Fans had a feast for their eyes as they alternated between closeups of the group in action and kaleidoscopic images. Fantastical images depicting the duo covered the screens at times. There was a space suit and Tron-themed garb for Alex and a conquistador getup for Drew while they towered over the stage. A free-falling theme reminiscent of Point Break was the backdrop for another track.
Bringing the 2016 Energy to 2023
On several occasions each night, Taggart called on the crowd to bring their 2015 / 2016 / 2017 energy. One way to fuel the hype is to get everyone singing. Blending in pieces of infamous pop music with dynamic beats has been a signature move for Pall and Taggart. This weekend provided tastes of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve and “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers early in the set. Later, fans belted the woohoos to Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” and sang along to Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.” A mix of Daft Punk’s smash hit “One More Time” was set against an apocalyptic cityscape. And who doesn’t love to scream at the top of their lungs to “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes?!
Retro songs aren’t the only nod to the past at the shows this weekend. While the trio set up together around the production area, the audience got to see Pall and Taggart imagined as characters from iconic movies. Some representations included Zoolander, Back to the Future, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Pretty Woman, Titanic, and the recent blockbuster Barbie movie.
New Phonics, Old Friends
Featured in the shows over the weekend were several tracks from Pall and Taggart’s recent album So Far So Good, which came out in 2022. Like 2019’s Grammy-nominated World War Joy, it debuted at number one on the Billboard Dance / Electronic Albums chart. The new record contrasts their three prior releases with no guest singers featured. Another attribute of So Far So Good is a sense of maturity in the lyricism, reflecting the artist’s growth. While no vocals from other artists appear on the tracks, production collaborators included Whethan, Ian Kirkpatrick, and Emily Warren. A crowd favorite from the new songs was when Taggart mused, “Why you only say you love me when you’re high?”
While the recent record is all Chainsmokers, there were artist cameos at the shows. Both nights featured Carlie Hanson on vocals for “See You Again,” an electro-punk breakup song that they released together this year. Collaborating on that track is Denver’s own ILLENIUM, who also joined them onstage for night two’s performance. Witnessing this alliance was enthralling for anyone in attendance! Whether you caught them performing the jam together at TRILOGY or this was your first taste, it was a treat.
Second Stage Surprise
As the action on stage seemed to wrap up, fans were in for a unique encore. Instead of leaving the main stage and returning for a few songs, a three-minute timer played on the display. Meanwhile, McGuire, Pall and Taggart ascended to a second stage. Above the sound booth, they immersed themselves in the audience for a fantastic finale. The trio encouraged fans to hold nothing back, hyping the crowd up as the time ticked down. Responding to their plea for a 10,000-person karaoke chant about a tattoo on a shoulder and a roommate back in Boulder, the venue reached a fever pitch. After teasing the song several times but shutting down the exuberant spectators, the crowd finally got what we all wanted. Wrapping up the show each night was a raucous performance of their epic singalong jam with Colorado ties, “Closer.” While Halsey wasn’t on hand for a cameo, she’d have probably gotten overpowered by the sheer volume of the masses.
Ending the Story or The Next Chapter?
Throughout both nights at Red Rocks, The Chainsmokers told a dramatic story via the visual production. A triumvirate of warriors was introduced to the crowd one by one. The second combatant also brandished a weapon that appeared as a blade and looked like a staff as she spun it masterfully. The third champion prepared for the battlefield in another way. She perfected her craft more deliberately, fabricating and testing an animatronic creation for battle.
Despite all the preparation, there was never a direct depiction of a dragon-slaying clash ensuing. We were left with an air of mystery to the outcome and possible foreshadowing as the performance continued. Later images portrayed a neon hatchback with speakers stuffed in the back surrounded by a zombielike rave cult. That scene also erupts into an apocalyptic arena, with the vehicle overrun by flames.
What happened to the fantastical realm depicted in such detail by The Chainsmokers? Perhaps we’ll never know — or maybe we’ll need to wait until the next tour to find out! Hopefully, we get another appearance at Red Rocks to continue telling the tale.
Photos by Noah Weiss