Xavier De Rosay, half of the French electronic duo Justice, told Rolling Stone this week something I found interesting for a band that had its breakout hit with a song called “D.A.N.C.E.” “We don’t really make dance music,” he said. “Some of the tracks are danceable, but whether it’s on record or live, we’re not attempting to make dance music.”
The vast majority of people who went to Wednesday night’s show at the Paramount Theater were there to dance. The audience was an eclectic mix of club kids, hipsters and bros, but it felt unifying because the crowd was there to collectively lose their shit over the big, 4/4 beats.
This was the first show Justice played in Seattle in over four years, following the group releasing its sophomore album Audio, Video, Disco last year on Ed Banger Records and after playing the Coachella festival (plural). It was a long time coming for a lot of fans, and an experience for a lot who discovered Justice by becoming Skrillex fans and working backwards. I saw a t-shirt that said, “I love you but I’ve chosen dubstep.”
The stage had a setup where De Rosay and his partner in crime Gaspard Auge could work with a illuminated cross (it’s trademark) at the center and stacks of nine Marshall amps on each side of the stage. It looked imposing because it dwarfed De Rosay and Auge, though less imposing in a spacious theater than a smaller club. They didn’t talk at all, and instead you would see them hunched over, twisting knobs while their heads bobbed. They were rarely visible (see my bad cell phone photo below, you know, or don’t).
Their set began with a rough rendition of the national anthem, through Justice’s electronic rock filter of simulated guitar chords and big beats. Pitchfork called it “cheese-rock signifiers dressed up as dance music” in its negative review of Audio, Video, Disco. That isn’t wrong, but it translates much better to a live setting where the bass lines could be felt reverberating throughout the main floor.
Samples from singles like “Civilization” and “We Are Your Friends” were teased multiple times throughout the show, knowing Justice could revert to their familiar choruses for a familiar effect. Yet, it felt more audacious than manipulative, like a comedian who will tell the same joke twice because he knows the crowd will also laugh the second time. “D.A.N.C.E.” was stretched out last more than ten minutes.
While the band flirted with progressive rock tendencies on Audio, Video, Disco, their live show felt familiar, relying on a steady 4/4 beat. It was far more crowd-pleasing than Justice’s last album, but when you’re in the crowd, you want to be pleased.
Fun fact: Justice’s breakthrough album from 2007 is called † and is not pronounced “cross.” The correct pronunciation is to hold your two index fingers perpendicular.
Chris Burlingame is the editor of Another Rainy Saturday.