Guitar slung over her shoulder, Chromatics’ Ruth Radalet casts an ethereal stare beneath her blonde bangs towards the hip crowd gathered before her. Tonight, surrounded by the retro remnants of a former theatre in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district, she is commanding and holding their attention with hypnotic spells of love and mystery. To her left, synthpop maestro Johnny Jewel nods as his hands dance upon the keys with the fervour of a marionette possessed.
A glamourous retro-future utopia with Desire in tow, the Double Exposure tour marks Chromatics’ first European shows in 6 years. Before both gangs of beautiful misfits take to the stage, the audience is met with what’s been keeping the band busy as a changing backdrop of neon 80s synthwave artwork depicts every release on Johnny’s vast Italians Do It Better label.
With his raven mane, skinny tie and ornamental teardrops on his face, Johnny Jewel is the gothic-indie antithesis to the melodrama of his technicolour world. Playing bass, and synths balanced on flight cases, he’s a Warholesque enigma; ringleader of his own muse-driven vision, yet creator of music that smoulders with emotion. ‘Back From The Grave’ is a pentatonic dream that ascends into a blissed-out groove and ‘Time Rider’ is ignited by its hefty analog vs. digital static as Johnny seats himself at the electric piano.
In Vilnius’ Loftas, Ruth sings with the grace of Nico through the smoggy disco haze of ‘I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around.’ The pounding heartbeat of ‘I Want Your Love’ throbs like Faithless as it ricochets off the industrial hooks and pulleys of the former factory. Fans of Lynch’s Twin Peaks are treated to ‘Shadow’ as heard on the show and images of flames, smoke, monochrome zig zags and red velvet curtains appear whilst Johnny bobs to the beat with a fan-flung rose between his teeth. “That’s the first flower solo we’ve had,” he grins.
Falling to one knee and bowing to his singer-guitarist, Johnny thanks Ruth before turning his appreciation to the crowd. “Thanks for coming, mind if we play a few more?” Returning for an encore, the audience fall silent for Ruth’s heavenly acoustic solo of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire,’ and Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ is given a Chromatic twist to finish. It’s sass, with pure class.
If Chromatics is love, Desire is lust. Singer, Megan Louise appears to have rolled onto Berlin’s Astra Kulturhaus stage across a slick of liquid tar, standing dominatrix-like in a skin-tight rubber catsuit. The devil to Ruth Radalet’s angel, in Vilnius her uniform is pillar-box red, and both nights’ crowds are met with military marching and waving salutes.
Swapping the glass of red she’s holding to pick up a classic telephone, she spirals its wire around her fingers and delivers lyrics down the receiver. “This is for lovers and future lovers,” Megan tells, before launching into the Drive film favourite ‘Keep Me Under Your Spell,’ and a rousing cover of New Order’s ‘Bizarre Love Triangle.’ On keys, partner Johnny and the sunglasses-wearing Heaven, close with a synth duel and hold the fuzz to a swell that could rip the venue in two.