Justice gives the sweaty masses more than enough in Vancouver
At the PNE Forum on Thursday, April 26
There’s an argument to be made that Justice could have done a little more than push buttons, twirl knobs, and fire up an endless supply of French cigarettes on Thursday. Like, for example, would it have killed Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé to raid a local French-immersion school, round up a bunch of Grade 3 students, and squire them onto the Forum stage to sing the Jackson 5-esque vocal loop for “D.A.N.C.E.”?
Why the hell didn’t the Parisian producers go full-on prog for “Civilization” off their, well, almost full-on prog new album Audio, Video, Disco? You know—have the reanimated corpse of Rick Wakeman descend from the rafters during the soaking-up-the-’70s epic, preferably while wearing a pair of silver-glitter ice skates and his The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table finery.
Or—awww, fuck it. Who are we kidding? For a couple of guys who rarely left their white-cross-lit pulpit, Justice did a fine job of delivering an old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll spectacle. Yes, even though you have to head to the electronica section of Scratch to find Audio, Video, Disco and its more distortion-fried predecessor, Cross, this one had the feeling of a rock show. Or, to put things less delicately, no one left thinking de Rosnay and Augé were up there checking their email.
The stage setup was simple but effective, the group’s trademark illuminated white cross placed squarely at centre stage, flanked by towering banks of Marshall stacks. The two producers worked the decks and samplers backlit by a sensory-overloading wall of pulsing white light, with constantly firing strobes adding to the retina-searing assault.
Sonically, Justice's electro-anthems hit every bit as hard as many of the iconic heavyweights who’ve headlined the Forum over the years. Think—and this isn’t hyperbole—the likes of Pantera, Slipknot, and Marilyn Manson before the fall. Fittingly, then, instead of glow sticks, devil horns were being hoisted in appreciation.
So what was coolest thing, besides the Forum floor transforming into a feel-good, wet sea of fans happily losing their (from the smell of things) alcohol-soaked minds? Nominees included a version of “Phantom” so powerfully far beyond driven, you could almost feel your brain liquefy and pool in your lap. The stage parting in “D.A.N.C.E.” to reveal a glowing white cube and vintage keyboard was a nice touch, especially when Augé sat down and steered things toward the chillout room.
The tastiest eye candy was probably the way the banks of Marshalls started to take on a life of their own halfway through the night, glowing angel-wings white one second, and devil-horns red the next.
Justice ended the set with a version of “Audio, Video, Disco” that somehow managed to be as brutal as it was uplifting. Fittingly, given that the night was pretty much split between Cross and Audio, Video, Disco, Paris’s biggest techno act not named Daft Punk drew from both albums for the encore.
After Vancouver screamed itself hoarse for a good 10 minutes, de Rosnay reappeared at the same time as the keyboard and white cube, the less hairy half channeling his inner 10CC fan for “On’n’On”.
Things came to a hearing-punishing end with “Phantom Pt. II”, which was stretched out to include a space-cowboy excursion into Pink Floyd territory before detonating into a hard-house rampage.
If, ears ringing, you happened to brush the aging cement walls of the Forum on your way to a merch table that was stripped clear before the show even started, you would have noticed the concrete was slick, presumably from the sweaty mist rolling off the crowd. That proved at least one thing: even if Justice could arguably have done more, what it did do was more than enough.
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