Skrillex's performance last night at 1STBANK is one for the books. Thanks to the live synched projector mapping, coupled with two towering LED screens on both sides, the electronic artist, whose given name is Sonny Moore, demonstrated just how he's gone from opening shows at the Fillmore for Deadmau5 to headlining his own Halloween arena show.
The unveiling of the stage for Skrillex brought about more cheers and claps than anything I've seen before. He hadn't even hit the stage yet and people were losing it. The stage itself was a subtle white screen with pillars flanking the DJ booth and LED panels outside of those. Two projectors, similar to the ones Amon Tobin uses for his monumental mapping, sat at the sound booth, along with a team of visual artists all wearing headphones and awaiting the headliner.
Enter Skrillex. Deafening screams of excitement greeted him as he took the stage, nearly trumping the speakers, until he really cut loose. We tasted little bits of samples from all of his works in the opening minutes, like he was teasing us with what would later be the closing tracks. The most impressive thing, visually at least, was the live-synched mapping going on behind him. It was as if he was wearing reflectors that were picked up by cameras, then fed into the computer at the sound booth and synched to screens, where tall skeletons, who started out as robots, mimicked his every move behind the booth. Picture skeletons on both sides of the LED screens, then a projected skeleton of the same look, though slightly smaller, directly behind him on the screen. This held true for nearly the entire show, along with various graphics exploding, melting, oozing, dripping and flashing on the booth-flanking pillars.
Track-wise, we heard it all. Close to the beginning, we were offered bits and pieces from "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," as well as the hook from Benny Benassi's "Cinema," remixed by Skrillex, of course, and that led into his hard-hitting remix of La Roux's "In for the Kill." Later segues included a longer version, complete with the groundbreaking bass line of "Scary Monsters" into "All I Ask of You." It seems like dubstep is morphing into moombahton, adding more Latin influence and giving a dancehall feel to what formerly could be described as your typical rave scene. Even when he dropped a remixed version of "Hypnotize," sped up and much harder than the famous Biggie track, the place erupted.
The closing songs were a mash-up of Skrillex favorites, but the two high points came from the entire venue singing along to "Cinema," with no backing track, and "First of the Year (Equinox)," recently made famous thanks to a shockingly graphic and perverted music video where an obvious sex offender follows a little girl into a room -- where she destroys him with bass. There's a good chance that until this time next year, when another artist is given the same opportunity to celebrate Halloween with 7,000-plus people, those of us who were at Monday night's show will be talking about it.
Click through for Critic's Notebook and to read about the supporting acts
The night started around 6 p.m., when the doors opened. The lots hadn't even begun filling in yet when Nadastrom came out and got things moving for the evening. It's important to note that all of the artists on the bill, regardless of their time slot, played sets comparable to any headliner, including Nadastrom. Dave Nada, one half of Nadastrom, looked like a Sonny Moore impersonator, confusing some that thought Skrillex was playing in the opening set. If it confused anyone, it was for the better, because the GA floor steadily filled in anticipation of Two Fresh.
The Asheville, North Carolina-based twins, Kendrick and Sherwyn Nicholls, along with Colby Buckler on drums, make up the live version of Two Fresh. One of their previous shows last year at Cervantes' introduced me to the group, and progression doesn't even begin to describe what this trio of musicians is going through. Backing the release of its most recent album, AirMail, Two Fresh brought the hip-hop flavor for the evening with class and sophistication. Smooth, suave and on point, Buckler and the twins remixed old rap cuts interspersed with electronic sounds and melodies. The addition of the live drummer for performance isn't a new thing, but keeping that live energy on stage bleeds into the crowd in the best way possible.
Next up was 12th Planet, a one-man dubstep party, that set the bar even higher. Only three artists into the bill, and a good portion of the venue was sweating and panting like the headliner had just closed. Clearly, there was a reason that tickets were scalping outside for upwards of $200 tonight. Since it's almost unavoidable to go to a dubstep show without hearing at least one Doctor P track, 12th Planet supplied the Tetris remix with that catchy hook (the one you just started humming in your head). Except this version doesn't get annoying or old; it gets heavier and harder. Hard to believe at this point that Nero, Skream and Benga and Skrillex were still to come.
The stage setup for Nero consisted of a monstrous center laid speaker/television stack with the artists perched at the top. Reminiscent of Daft Punk in both sound and style, Nero started heavy before bringing out live singer Alana, whose live vocals on "Me & You" gave the song a certain kind of intimacy, while still maintaining its floor shaking drop. Along with "Crush on You," a single released just recently off the new album, Nero and Alana also performed "Guilt" and "Promises." A comparison to Daft Punk is a dangerous thing, but Nero deserves credit, because, well, the act's set eclipsed Skream and Benga, who were about to take the stage.
There must have been some miscommunications on stage for the following act because the obvious tension changed the whole atmosphere of the show. Skream played at Red Rocks with Pretty Lights over the summer and ran into a few problems then, but last night it just felt awkward. There wasn't the expected chemistry, which sent many heading to the concourse to relax and let their ears take a break. What's more, closing with Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In The Name Of," with simply a stronger bass line, made it sort of obvious that the performers were reaching for anything to finish on a strong note. It worked, and the crowd ate up the Rage song, but it didn't flow like the previous four artists, and in fact just made room for those of us standing at the sound booth to move closer for Skrillex.
Personal Bias: I've hated on Skrillex in the past, mocking his sound and generally disliking the dude simply because I think I should. This was the most intense concert I've ever been to in terms of sound and sight, and I look forward to seeing how Sonny Moore will push this scene even further. By The Way:People don't rage the lot for Skrillex like they do for jam bands. Random Detail:Skrillex said it best before closing: "We are all now best friends."
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