Zedd House of Blues October 30, 2013
I may not know what Zedd looks like, but I think he represents the future.
Let's break down that sentence a bit before you grab your pitchforks and light your torches.
On a platform at the back of the House of Blues stage, surrounded by giant video walls, lights, and lasers, Zedd barreled his way through a 90-minute set full of crowd-pleasing hits while being little more than a silhouette onstage. He addressed the crowd a few times -- typical DJ things like asking the crowd to jump and make some noise -- but for the most part he was content to let the massive sounds and impressive lighting display do the talking for him.
And it was interesting. At times it was even captivating. That shadow onstage, armed with a hard drive full of tracks and a laser-light show on steroids, put on a hell of a performance, no live instruments needed.
Live music isn't dead, but with performers like Zedd moving up in the world, the word "concert" is certainly evolving.
As with any concert, there are two factors to consider here: the music and the performance.
On the music front, Zedd could basically do no wrong. He was already good when he played Something Wicked last year, but now it feels like he's playing on a completely different level. There were no lulls in his set, no moments of reflection, no high-minded journey to a higher spiritual realm; this was pure party music, fitting for a show where a healthy chunk of the audience showed up in costume.
It was a set full of singalongs, from pop hits by Icona Pop and Capital Cities to EDM favorites by Benny Benassi and Swedish House Mafia. The biggest singalongs were reserved for his own singles, of course, with the crowd really coming alive during "Clarity" and the show ending "Spectrum."
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Watching the sold-out crowd lose their minds during "Spectrum," one can't help but think House of Blues lucked out here; it's not hard to imagine Zedd playing Bayou Music Center the next time he comes to town.
Of course, because Zedd is a guy who knows what his crowd wants and aims to please, the most interesting part of his set (in this reviewer's opinion) was a ridiculous four-song run that saw him hitting Nari & Milani's "Atomk," Kanye's "Mercy," a trap remix of "Clarity," and "Niggas in Paris" all in a row. Hip-hop at home in an electro-house set? It works, and the youth love it.
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As for the performance aspect, whoever is responsible for Zedd's stage production is creating real art. From the high-gloss videos to the lighting selection tto the laser effects, there was never a dull moment visually. Zedd and crew have spent some serious time putting together an impressive stage package that not just complements the music, but can stand shoulder to shoulder with it.
And yes, watching Zedd does feel like watching the future. While it would be silly to go all in, Jon Landau/Bruce Springsteen-style on the man himself, it's pretty obvious that Zedd has one of those ears for writing good music. His personal future seems bright. But the future I'm talking about is the larger future of live music as a whole.
Even without a single live instrument or singer onstage, there's something about going to see a DJ like Zedd live that's better than listening to the studio versions of his music. Yeah, part of it is the satisfaction of feeling the bass in your chest, but it's more than that. To command the big bucks, the big name DJs are working on creating experiences and spending lots of money on visuals. It's more than just pushing buttons in front of a video wall even if it is pushing buttons in front of a video wall.
It's music for an overstimulated generation with the graphics to match. And there's a market for it, in the same way there's a market for sweaty punk shows and high-gloss pop shows and everything in between. It may not be for you, and that's OK.
Just remember: the rise of one style doesn't mean the decline of all the others. The landscape changes, but there's room for everyone. If Zedd is a glimpse of the future, I can't wait to see what's next.
Personal Bias: Now that Zedd's played, Eric Prydz moves up to the top of my "DJs Who Need to Come Back To Houston" list.
The Crowd: Young. Costumed. Patient; the line to get in was pretty massive and involved taking off your shoes, but everyone seemed to handle that OK, even if it meant the show started 30 minutes late.
Overheard In the Crowd: "You ready to get crunk?", asked the guy in front of me while we were going through security. The answer was "no," because I was holding my shoes, and I can't get crunk without my shoes on.
Random Notebook Dump: There's a guy dressed up like Waldo sitting on someone's shoulders. I can't decide if someone pretending to be Waldo doing something that brings attention to themselves is ironic or just silly.
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