Live Show Review: Justice and the Rapture at the Fox Theater

Justice with The Rapture :: 04.17.12 :: Fox Theater :: Oakland, CA

Originally published on April 25, 2012

Justice by Annelise Poda

Amps were cranked to 11 and minds were blown at the Fox Theater early last week as French electro house heroes Justice hit Oakland for a much-anticipated performance. Each year around mid-April, the Bay Area plays host to a high concentration of top tier artists because of the infamous Coachella festival in Southern California. The festival always boasts an impressive lineup and many of them end up booking dates in San Francisco before or after the festival. Since Coachella was expanded to two separate weekends this year, there were even more opportunities for great talent like Justice to come up north and play during this “Fauxchella” week. It’s a winning situation for Northern California, and Justice definitely lived up to the hype to deliver an adrenaline-infused set that people and their ringing ears will be high from for days to come.

The Rapture, another band on the Coachella bill, opened up this show with some grooving synth jams that were a perfect warm up for a night of energized dancing. The Rapture takes the funk band formula and applies rock overtones to it, giving them a unique sound that shook the audience into party mode. Lively bass lines are prominent in the mix, and they provide a backbone for wah-wah funk guitar accents, vibrant vocals, and even the occasional sexy saxophone solo. The band played classic fan favorites as well as new tracks off their recently released album In the Grace of Your Love. Highlights of the set included the sax-infused “Get Myself Into It” and “Whoo! Alright Yeah…Uh Huh”, where muliti-instrumentalist Gabriel Andruzzi went off on the best cowbell jam I have ever witnessed. He rocked out all around his keyboard stand with big swooping dance moves, giving off waves of ecstatic energy and really exploring all of the space around the stage left area. The cowbell is always a huge crowd pleaser, and people really got into the song and yelled along the exclamatory “Whoo!, Alright!” lyrics with the countertenor vocals of lead singer Luke Jenner. They wrapped up their set by playing their new piano-saturated single “How Deep is Your Love?”, where they traded their instruments for synthesizers and took the audience on a journey of looping bass lines and emotional singing. Many of The Rapture’s newer tracks are more synth-focused when compared to their previous rock centric album Pieces of the People We Love, and these contrasting styles made for a great blend of diverse music for their set. The song ended with a very enthusiastic audience singing and clapping along in unison to the fading lyrics, and spirits were high on the way into the headlining act.

Justice by Annelise Poda

Justice is one of the most notable artists in the electronic dance music scene, having cut their teeth creating head-turning remixes early on, and then subsequently signed to the notable tastemaker label Ed Banger Records. They quickly gained a rabid fan base and accelerated to world recognition with the release of their debut album (Pronounced Cross). Justice is the work of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay, two guys in leather jackets that give off a rock star vibe but also back it up by employing heavy use of punk rock and gnashing guitar parts in their mixes. Their usage of rock samples and electro house elements blends together to produce uniquely deep-hitting tracks and mosh-heavy live shows.

The minute that Augé and Rosnay took the stage at the Fox it was obvious that something big was about to go down. Their stage setup was composed of two massive amp walls of Marshall stacks that they positioned themselves in between and dramatically started off the show with the booming orchestral first track off their debut “Genesis”. People were pressed up against the gate at the front of the stage and responded appropriately as the tempo picked up and the first massive bass drop was executed. The energy levels among the audience were even palpable. You could feel the floor boards shaking as the crowd jumped up for a blasting metal riff, and when looking out over the crazed fans, everyone’s bodies vigorously moved together to create an undulating sea of grinding electro bliss.

Justice by Annelise Poda

Justice continued on and delivered a genre bending mash up set that spanned their entire catalog, including tracks from their more recent 2011 release Audio, Video, Disco. Their albums are engaging and it seems natural to listen to them the whole way though and really get to know each build-up and drop, so it was an exciting experience to hear the artists grab bits and pieces from different songs to twist their music in a different way. They took some of their tracks in the opposite direction and stretched them into new territory, speeding up certain parts, or stripping away different instrument tracks to play them in their most minimalist form.

During “D.A.N.C.E.” – arguably their most successful single – their blinking turntable stage setup split open to reveal an illuminated alcove with a single keyboard where Rosnay had a seat and played out the most elemental melody of the song. This was gradually built back up into a rougher mix with a digitalized bass line, and then finally to a full on pounding dance track. By the end of this musical journey, Justice had elevated the energy so much that the entire venue was going crazy. They did a very good job of expanding their recorded tracks into new places, which is a very admirable thing to see in a live DJ style performance.

Justice by Annelise Poda

In addition to Justice’s dynamic mixing skills, the visual aspect of this show was innovative and dazzlingly produced. The Marshall stacks turned out to be vessels for eye-popping animated LED light configurations, and the stage was hung with curtains of evenly spaced ping-pong ball sized lights that hosted endless patterns of snaking light formations. Occasionally, the normal stage lights would go on behind this curtain, and surprising new depth would be given to the room. It looked like whoever designed this light setup had an absolute blast figuring out how to morph the atmosphere in the room during different songs, and it’s always great to see a show where it’s apparent that very creative people were involved in its production.

Justice ended the night with an encore that started out with their new single “On’n’On”, another number that started out slowly and built up to a massive finish. They mixed in the lyrics from “We Are Your Friends”, one of their very early, catchy creations, and left the audience with the echoing mantra: “We are your friends, you’ll never be alone again, well c’mon.” The line rang out over the audience, a very true sentiment for a crowd crushed in on every side by old comrades and newly acquired dance partners, everyone sweaty and happy from the supercharged Justice performance.

Coachella was smart to have booked this group, and Oakland was more than happy to host them for this special show. Justice will be back for San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival in August, so if this sounds like a set you’d want to check out be sure to snag tickets to see them in Golden Gate Park.


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