Diplo and Justice Saturday, March 22, 2008 Ogden Theatre
Pulling off electronic music live is very tricky. The same tracks that can absolutely rock a dancefloor, a party or your headphones can fall completely flat when all there is to watch is a nerdy dude lit by his laptop. You can try a hype man, a bitchin' light show, trippy projections or burlesque dancers, but there’s still no guarantee you’re going to leverage these gimmicks to turn your bangin' beats into an entertaining live performance.
Saturday night’s sold-out show at the Ogden provided excellent examples of the different paths this can take. World-famous DJ and producer Diplo opened up the night with a DJ set that never rose above average. As I arrived, I heard a poorly mixed electro set and saw a nondescript DJ set up unobtrusively at stage left. While there were some pretty good tracks in the mix, I had no idea this was Diplo until he spun M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Had he set up at center stage, had something to announce his identity and stuck to more tracks that are identifiable with his style, Diplo’s set might have had more impact. As it was, however, it could have been almost any DJ. Of course, Justice’s stage setup didn’t leave much room for him to spread out. The most clever moment of the set was wishing the audience a happy Easter before spinning Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks.” Inspired.
On the other hand, the French duo Justice took the Ogden’s stage with authority. Performing behind gigantic Marshall stacks, their trademark glowing cross and an absurd bank of flashing lights, Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay threw down their most famous tracks – including the Simian remix, “We Are Your Friends,” and nearly every tune from the act’s Vice debut – with convincing attitude and a hell of a lot of pantomime. Lights, smoke and relentless energy kept the party bumping, but the star of the show just might have been the theater’s newly revamped sound system, which made the decidedly un-live beats of Justice sound amazing (and deafening), no matter where you were. In fact, the sound was so much better than it has been at previous Ogden shows that many in attendance were convinced that the Marshalls on stage were really kicking out beats (for the record, they weren’t). The strong sound throughout the theater meant that one (meaning me) didn’t have to submit to the maddening crush of teenagers at the front in order to enjoy a great mix. Though it was pretty clear that Augé and de Rosnay weren’t doing much during the set, they threw enough gang signs, flicked enough light switches and made enough rock faces to be visually as well as aurally entertaining. The duo’s fire-raising set culminated in a thoroughly smoking mashup of the act’s “The Party” and a techno’d out remix of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” – an inspired and inspiring end to a great party. –- Eryc Eyl Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I typically don’t enjoy shows at the Ogden because it seems they’re often oversold or underamplified. I was pleasantly surprised to find neither problem on Saturday night. Random Detail: Seeing drunken rave monkeys throwing up cross-like gang signs and DJ Soup with his hair shaved into a bleached blond cross really drove home the degree to which Justice has co-opted and completely recontextualized the Christian iconography of the cross. By the Way: Check out Justice’s performance of “D.A.N.C.E.” on the Jimmy Kimmel show above.