Live Report: Daft Punk in San Francisco

The Fillmore, San Francisco, September 9, 1997

Until now, the missing link to electronica's mainstream breakthrough has been the live concert. Sure, some electronic acts are brilliantly recasting pop, but how much fun is it to watch a pair of geeks twist knobs and bob their heads to the beat all night? The genre may go over well at clubs and warehouse parties, but in a traditional rock venue, audiences expect a little more spectacle: flying leaps, flying hair and plenty of special effects. You know, like Prodigy.

The French duo Daft Punk brought no such theatrics to their first Bay Area performance, but their disco-derived techno did manage to convince the crowd that it's OK to shake a little booty -- even if the Power Station is playing under the same roof a few days later. Bigger names, such as the Chemical Brothers, Orbital and Underworld, have all failed at the same task in the same venue. So either Daft Punk's beats were more effective, American audiences are warming up to the idea of raves or the drug dealers on Haight Street made a killing on ecstasy this week.

Whatever the reason, Daft Punk certainly had better luck revving up the sold-out house. The duo's thick grooves, reminiscent of electro-funk groups like Zapp, Egyptian Lover and Afrika Bambaataa and SoulSonic Force, had people alternately waving their hands in the air and clapping along with the beat. The crowd applauded the familiar strain of songs from the duo's self-titled debut and gyrated to the infectious rhythms of club hits like "Da Funk" and "Around The World."

Typically, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter kept to themselves for most of the performance, not even speaking or deigning to look up from the arsenal of keyboards and wires they were standing behind. It was even hard to tell how much of the show was live, as the sound man had only two channels on the mixing board turned up and seemed occupied mostly by the magazine he was reading. Still, judging from the response of the sweat-soaked masses, Daft Punk is one electronica act that gets how to touch their audience.