REVIEW: The Chainsmokers bring their circus act to Chase Center

The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers perform at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 29, 2019. Photos: Gary Chancer.

SAN FRANCISCO — Near the end of The Chainsmokers’ show Friday at Chase Center, three members of the Urias family entered a Globe of Death on dirt bikes and performed one of the most legendary and dangerous circus acts in history.

There was also music, of course. We’ll get to that. But first we have to talk about the Globe of Death.

For the first two acts, and the first part of the headliners’ set, a gigantic ball made of steel lattice hung tantalizingly over the stage. It was hard to miss the 16-foot-wide metal ball, even near the ceiling.

Eventually, the globe was lowered onto the stage, singer and DJ Drew Taggart climbed inside, and it was raised back into the air while he performed “Sick Boy.” It was a bit of a letdown. But later on two of the Urias brothers rode onto the stage and did donuts on their dirt bikes between songs to tease that there may be more, and eventually the stunt was performed in full.

The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers perform at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 29, 2019.

That sophisticated story arc—tease, misdirect, foreshadowing, and payoff—for something as unconventional as a giant steel sphere and something as spectacular as a dangerous circus stunt summarizes the biggest strength of The Chainsmokers in concert: They know how to put on a show.

Drummer Matt McGuire performed a solo with flaming drumsticks atop a platform raised 20 feet in the air. Taggart climbed onto a lighting rig which was raised over the crowd. Enormous segments of the stage rose and lowered throughout the show. There were lasers. There was fire. It was barely controlled chaos in the best possible way.

That all distracts from the fact that, in large part, the show is largely the album versions of songs. The Chainsmokers have songs with a wide variety of guest vocalists, from Halsey (“Closer”) to Bebe Rexha (“Call You Mine”) to Daya (“Don’t Let Me Down”) to Winona Oak (“Hope”), all of which were performed despite none of whom appeared with the band on stage. So while openers 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella could appear as themselves, most other songs included recorded vocals straight from the albums.

There were also wide swings in tone from one song to the next. The Chainsmokers are both a pop act and an EDM duo, so there are some fairly dramatic shifts from heartfelt vocal duets to full-blown DJ sets. It was occasionally jarring to be whipped between two very different types of show.

The duo covered its other biggest songs during the set, from “Takeaway” to “Something Just Like This” (the Coldplay collaboration), “This Feeling” and “Push My Luck.” And there was an actual Globe of Death. Surrounded by jets of fire and lasers. Any downsides were more than made up for by the quality of production and the show.

5 Seconds of Summer

5 Seconds of Summer performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 29, 2019.

Australian pop rock powerhouse 5 Seconds of Summer preceded the headliners and played an hour of songs spanning their career to thousands of fans who had made it loudly known they were there to see them.

Every song was a singalong and a request to put up cell phone flashlights had one of the highest participation rates since people still used lighters. And the final song of the set, 2018’s “Youngblood,” brought some to tears.

That young audience was also the biggest drawback; it was, for better or worse, very much an ideal candidate for young people’s First Real Concert. Aside from some swearing from the band members it was very parent-friendly. It was loud without being too loud, edgy without being too edgy, suggestive without being overt about it.

At one point 5 Seconds of Summer covered a verse of Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again.” Just one verse though, and not one of the ones with sexual stuff. And somehow their performance felt more muted and dated than the 20-year-old original version that mentions pay phones.

Regardless, by design or coincidence, that’s their niche and they fill it well. That target market of young people, and the parents there with them, ate it up.

The set included the band’s massive hits like “Teeth,” from the soundtrack to “13 Reasons Why,” “Easier” and “Ghost of You,” all of which hit home with the crowd.

Lennon Stella

Lennon Stella performs at Chase Center in San Francisco on Nov. 29, 2019.

Opening the show was Canadian actress and singer Lennon Stella. Despite not having a full album, her longtime role on the TV show Nashville and her YouTube performances with her sister gave her a sizable fanbase.

A fairly quick run through her singles kept everyone happy, with this year’s “Kissing Other People.” The standout, though, was “BITCH (takes one to know one),” which got the biggest reaction from the young women in the crowd, to the visible chagrin of their parents.

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at

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