The Chainsmokers kicked off their World War Joy North American fall tour in Cincinnati on Wednesday night (Sept. 25) with a 90-minute eye-stravaganza that lit up the city’s arena with a Ringling Bros.-worthy mix of high-flying circus stunts, explosions, laser barrages and, of course, plenty of chart-topping hits.
With opening acts 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) and Lennon Stella in tow, Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart unveiled their elaborate new stage setup during a 90-minute, 16-song set that brought a touch of high-gloss Las Vegas flash to the city’s currently nameless arena.
The duo, who frequently top the charts thanks to guest vocals from A-list and up-and-coming artists, brought out both openers (who are both Chainsmokers collaborators) for a little shine during the main set and also found creative ways to include former collaborators such as Chris Martin, Halsey, Daya and Bebe Rexha in the mix.
Here are the 9 best things we saw during the show.
Merch on point
In addition to the usual assortment of t-shirts, tie-dye hoodies and pink TCS baseball caps, the dance duo also offered up a shiny, tiny clear backpack just big enough to hold a six pack of your mom’s White Claw cans. With a golden rainbow sheen finish, the pack’s piece de resistance are the words “stop looking at my stuff” across the front.
5SOS bringing the rock
Near the beginning of their 45-minute opening set, the Australian quartet busted out a blitz version of their pop-punk predecessors Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” A short time later, drummer Ashton Irwin cemented their rock bona fides by channeling Dave Grohl’s bashing style in an Animal-like drum solo that led into a brief Nirvana-esque instrumental.
Shhh… super secret song!
In addition to the hits, Pall and Taggart mixed an unreleased ballad into the lineup near the beginning of the set. “This one is not out yet,” Taggart told the crowd about the songs — titled “Push My Luck” — before leaning into the sentimental chorus, “I think I might push my luck with you,” over Pall’s gentle, swaying keyboard line.
Can we talk about the stage?
When all you do is win, you get to go nuts with stage design and clearly the ‘Smokers dialed it up this time. There was a literal floating bridge 30 feet in the air that Taggart climbed onto during “Everybody Hates Me” and two banks of spinning, flashing, strobing light rigs on either side of the main stage that looked like they were beacons suspended in the air. But the big guns were mounted on the massive X-shaped lighting structure over the drum kit, which telescoped up and down all night and turned into a giant staircase that extended to the arena’s ceiling for the big “Closer” finale.
Tunes you may also recognize
In addition to their own tracks, the boys also slipped in snippets of other songs you might know and love, including a sped-up race through of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” set to a pulsing house beat; a taste of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” at the end of “Don’t Let Me Down”; and techno versions of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” mixed into “Something Just Like This.”
No guest singers, no problem
There’s no way to bring all that A-list talent on tour, so for the Bebe Rexha-featuring “Call You Mine,” The Chainsmokers projected a CGI image of a robotic green snake woman with glowing metallic eyes crooning Rexha’s parts; lines of scrolling computer code behind Daya’s vocals in “Don’t Let Me Down”; and yet another robot avatar — this one with blue skin and gold lips — during their Winona Oak collab “Hope.”
Give the drummer some…
Drummer Matt McGuire kept the beats coming all night long, but mid-show he got spotlight time when he walked down to a second, bigger kit in the middle of the catwalk that bisected the arena floor. As the kit rose 20 feet into the air, an assistant handed McGuire two flaming drum sticks for a truly fiery solo. Thankfully, he didn’t throw those sticks into the crowd when he was done.
…As well as the opening acts
Stella helped open The Chainsmokers’ set with a sweet duet with Taggart on “Takeaway,” and 5SOS bopped back out mid-show for a spirited “Who Do You Love” that featured some smooth five-part harmonies as Taggart strummed an acoustic guitar. As a bonus, the stage lit up with some properly fierce pyro (up from the floor and down from the ceiling) that was so hot you could feel your eyelids curling.
If you were wondering what that giant black hamster ball cage was doing hanging over the arena floor all night, Taggart revealed the answer during “Sick Boy.” When the ball descended, the singer hopped in and sang the title track from the duo’s 2018 album while running up and down the walls of the prop like a caged rat as it rose into the air. But that wasn’t all. During an extended jam of the Coldplay collab “Something Just Like This,” three red glowing motorcycles raced onto the stage, and the Urias Family Daredevils performed their legendary circus stunt inside the Ball of Death. Zipping around just inches form each other, the riders became a blur, stopping only long enough to invite two female stunt extras to stand in the middle of the mayhem to add a further touch of danger. Earlier in the night, the two riders performed sick burnout donuts on the catwalk during “Hope.” Because why not?