Now that sinking album sales have forced the vast majority of bands to make the bulk of their income through touring, it makes sense for musicians to put more effort than ever into their live shows.
Andrew “Drew” Taggart and Alex Pall – the musicians who make up the Chainsmokers — appear to have gone well above and beyond the call of duty for the first tour in support of the duo’s latest album, “World War Joy.”
The World War Joy tour rolls into Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena Oct. 11, featuring th aforementioned Chainsmokers, 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella.
“There have been a lot of really impressive shows this past year that we’ve been paying attention to, and I feel like a lot of artists are taking production to the next level and we knew it was time for us to like step up,” Taggart said in an early September phone interview.
The main stage is made up of three separate sections that form what Taggart and Pall call the “triad.”
“They’re all suspended and they can lift up and then lift down and form the triad shape and then they can lift up in the air with pyro, and then on one staircase it has this reflective shield that you can blow light into,” Taggart said. “The stage looks absolutely insane.”
Expect other visual bells and whistles, as well as something called the Globe of Death.
“Probably like midway through the show, we have these dirt bikes that show up on stage and get into the Globe of Death and they start spinning circles while we’re performing some of our more like intense songs,” Taggart said. “It’s really going to take those songs to the next level, just the adrenaline. Even the sound of the motors is going to be really powerful.”
Surprises on tour
There will also be surprises with the music, as Taggart and Pall will be joined by Matt McGuire on drums, helping to move the music toward more of a live band sound.
“We’ve spent a lot of time over the last six months thinking (up and) making unique edits of all of our songs, building new remixes and new sections to kind of tie it all together,” Taggart said.
“We reimagined pretty much everything,” he said. “You get all of our more popular songs, and kind of like a lot of them will start like how you’ve heard them on the radio or whatever and they start to get reimagined as they go on. We had a lot of fun with it, and there’s definitely stuff you’ll hear on this tour that you’ll only be able to hear on this tour.”
Creating elaborate live shows is nothing new for the Chainsmokers, who first toured U.S. arenas in 2017, after making regular visits to the top of dance/electronic singles chart.
Joining forces in 2012, Pall and Taggart started out by doing remixes of songs by indie bands before beginning to create original material, often collaborating with other artists from the EDM and pop worlds. An early single, “#Selfie,” became a hit on dance/electronic charts in 2014, before the song “Roses,” arrived in June 2015 and went multi-platinum in multiple countries.
The Chainsmokers then hit a new level in summer 2016 with the song “Closer,” which featured Taggart doing his first lead vocal, in a duet with Halsey. The song spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on “Billboard” magazine’s Hot 100 singles chart and set the stage for the duo’s first full-length album, “Memories Do Not Open,” which arrived in April 2017.
The album debuted at No. 1 on the “Billboard 200” album chart and went platinum, having spawned the hit singles “Something Just Like Us” (a collaboration with Coldplay) and “The One.” A second album, “Sick Boy,” followed in 2018. It produced a half dozen dance hits (including “This Feeling,” “Side Effects” and “Everybody Hates Me”), and the Chainsmokers were ranked by “Billboard” as the top dance music act of 2018.
Up next will be “World War Joy.” The album is expected to arrive yet this year, but the release date has not been announced.
The singles that have been released so far move the group’s sound in more of a pop direction, as the top 5 dance/electronic hits “Call You Mine” (featuring Bebe Rexha), “Takeaway” (featuring Illenium and Lennon Stella) and “Who Do You Love” (featuring 5 Seconds of Summer) all lean in a pop ballad direction with some EDM and hip-hop touches.
“Takeaway” and “Who Do You Love” will be easy enough to perform on tour since 5 Seconds of Summer and Stella are opening for the Chainsmokers. But Taggart and Pall (who joined Taggart for this interview) have something special in mind for songs that feature other female guest vocalists.
“We have created this character that will exist and transform and evolve over the course of the show, that is enough of a presence where you’re kind of like, it doesn’t feel like ‘OK, where is the singer,’ which is something we’ve definitely found challenging over the last two years when you’re performing songs where the singer is not there,” Pall said. “So she kind of takes the role of the frontman in the cases where there’s like a female lead (vocal).”