Some concerts are as much about the audience as the performance. Others, such as Tiesto: In Concert, are purely centered on the audience. What took place in July at San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium was less a dance show and more like a convention. Techno teens, cyber punks, and any subculture that identifies with neon green showed up in droves. Out from stretch cyber-prom limousines spilled groups of costumed starlets donning glowsticks, pacifiers, luminescent clothing, and anything else that could possibly confuse and alienate stodgy passersby.While most of my press cohorts chose to complain to their PR contacts about the lack of an expedited media line, I took it as an opportunity to bask in the vibrance of the spectacle around me. Flashbacks of the historical fiction Groove, a campy dedication to the cultural phenomenon that is “rave,” struck me with each gaggle of pacifier-plugged groupies. People had heeded the call from all over the Bay Area, as had a few who actually flew in and planned trips around the show. Could this only be the work of the world’s alleged #1 DJ, or did it help that this was one of the yearâ€šÃ„Ã´s only mega-DJ shows open to an 18-and-over crowd? Either way, the energy was undeniable, the scene was electric, and I had yet to step inside.
While Tiesto was the superstar face blanketing the streets of San Franciscoâ€šÃ„Ã´s SoMa club district for the past few months, the slew of jocks accompanying him was at least as impressive. Notable side-room spinners included SFâ€šÃ„Ã´s internationally known deep house ambassador Mark Farina, break champions Lee Coombs and DJ Hyper, Uberzone, Derrick Carter, and Doc Martin; each could have easily packed any other venue in the city. I affectionately coined these rooms the Adult Zones, as their vibe catered more to the sensibilities of first-generation clubbers who have since handed down their pacifiers to their first-born.
Farina and Carter furnished a bouncy and patently SF option for those who felt like setting their electronic horizons a few BPM lower. Across from this house area Lee and Hyper absolutely rocked the breaks room, showcasing their trademark dirty yet danceable stylings for an hour each. Sadly I would miss Uberzoneâ€šÃ„Ã´s slot (pitted directly opposite Tiestoâ€šÃ„Ã´s), though those who were present sang its praises. Q of Uberzone was kind enough to give me a few moments of his time and explain what he and the other headline-caliber performers were there to accomplish under Tiesto: â€šÃ„ÃºWe’re here to expose different music to new audiences, have fun, and give Tiesto fans a different sound which they may choose to explore after tonight.â€šÃ„Ã¹
I could have easily camped out with the breakbeat talent the whole night, and probably would have if I weren’t charged with the duty of reporting back to you my findings on…The World’s Number One DJ! A dilemma: do I listen to my undulating body, keep on breakin’ on, and tell HQ that I refused to wait in line for an hour and never made it in? Even though they would have believed it, I dutifully retained my professionalism and crossed over to the neon side just as Tiesto dropped the, umm, return key on his first track.
Suffice it to say that the man everyone paid $75 to watch play prerecorded music for three hours got their money’s worth. Say what you will about Tiesto’s musical credentials (or don’t and just watch parodies of them on YouTube), the man knows how to deliver the trancey goods in an unapologetically energetic and unabashed manner. Unlike many other DJ sets, no one was expecting boundaries to be pushed. In fact, the crowd liked the boundaries of late-1990s trance right where they were, and Tiesto gave fans a chance to relive the thrills of the acid synths, snare rushes, and symphonic breakdowns that first drew many an impressionable ear to dance music in the first place.
Tiesto himself was refreshingly personable for someone whose international stature could give him a head too big for any pair of headphones. At times I could not tell if he was amused by or along with the crowd, though he seemed satisfied with the result he was putting forth and the reception it received. Honestly, the guy could have played anything that night and got paid; the level of enthusiasm he poured into each anal-retentive track selection showed that he wanted to put forth an unforgettable event of musicâ€šÃ„Ã®at least until next yearâ€šÃ„Ã´s trip to the States. Simply put by a career-long follower whose hands remained above his head throughout his set, Tiesto was “in the zone.”
Beginning on the more progressive side of the spectrum, a few tracks and remixes from Above & Beyond and Imogen Heap effectively picked up where hometown trance bastion Dyloot left off. Before the crowd had a chance to fasten their seat belts and lift their tray tables, Tiesto was already burning at 90% power. For three additional hours he remained at this plateau, dropping classics from Delerium, Goureyella, and his own library until his finale remix of the Pirates of the Carribean theme ended the ride. One who prefers the structural dynamics and progression of a diverse yet cohesively sequenced set may have found the music a bit linear and formulaic compared to the best of the progressive house jocks, or even the latest offered by Tiesto competitor Armin van Buuren. Naturally, hitting anthem after anthem doesn’t give the DJ much space to maneuverâ€šÃ„Ã®you can only move so far between fluff, frappe, and whip. Still, the crowd relentlessly hung on to every beat, bursting at each and every climax with not a yawn in sight. Musical qualifications aside, I have a hard time thinking of live acts that can manage this feat. I imagine this crowd had been waiting for this night for some time, and as Roxette once eloquently put it, “Don’t bore us. Get to the chorus.”
Throughout his set, I believe I heard about half of the material featured on his new studio album Elements of Life. After having reviewed the album with a qualified recommendation, I could now see the forum for which these songs were meant to be heard. As with a few other styles of music I am aware of, sometimes you just need a room filled with dancing lunatics to give something meaning. This was not a show for jaded, judgmental music been-there-done-thats (read: press), but rather those who just wanted to have it out on the dancefloor like a second chance at being a kid again. It may have been corny, kitschy, and at times even cheesy, though only in retrospect, as at the moment it was the place to be.