The Juan Maclean dropped in at The Vic on Saturday night, playing preface to LCD Soundsystem’s headlining spot on the tandem’s nation-wide tour. The throngs left weak in the dancing knees by the end of the night, with The Juan Maclean delivering the first leg of the dance-a-thon amidst a strobe light-ridden stage.
The Juan Maclean’s latest album, Less than Human (DFA/Astralwerks), has legs of its own and dances through the worlds of techno, funk, disco, electro-pop, and that stuff-that-makes-you-move-genre. The album does not elicit the unfortunate image destined for most musicians of his, The Juan’s, kind - a tinkering hunchback leaning over synthesizers, drum machines and samplers. There is individuality about the music, but the eclectic mix of dance beats masks just exactly who this Juan Maclean character is. And why the “The,” anyway? Afterall, The Juan Maclean is only one man, right?
In most cases yes, The Juan Maclean is only one man/robot/persona, but not live. The voice-modulated Juan and his “digital music” were actually assisted by a very analog drum set with a very organic drummer behind them and a back-up keyboardist who plays a mean keytar, not to mention some of the best theremin skills this side of ever. Juan sat center amidst everything from keyboards to cowbells to whistle (think high school basketball coach) to a handheld strobe that illuminated (as best a strobe can, intermittently) the drummer and keyboardist. Further destroying the image of a digital-age hermit, Juan jumped to bathe his band mates in some strobe, or blow that whistle with as much rock & roll intensity as one can blow a coach’s whistle.
They burned through Less Than Human as Chicagoans got increasingly dance-ready. A loyal front stage contingent, though, kept the floor moving at all times and when it came time for the back-up vocals of LCD Soundsystem’s live performance members (even The James Murphy!) on “Give Me Every Little Thing,” we saw the peak of The Juan Maclean’s power to get us moving. The house beat, coupled with a funkadelic bass line and back-up vocal chant of Parliamentary proportions, sent the crowd into a flurry.
The Juan Maclean eventually exited the stage, leaving it open for LCD Soundsystem, whom they joined on the first song of their set. Juan may only be one man, but on stage, The Juan Maclean becomes a collaborative beat-making posse that has the sole purpose of making you move. Buying your own whistle and hand-strobe probably won’t have the same effect, so save your money... then use it to go see The Juan Maclean.