Radio City Music Hall
Wednesday, September 26
Better than: The Rockettes
In the promo video for last night’s Avicii show, 52,171 viewers found the producer/DJ walking through the Times Square venue that he would soon play and sitting in the seats around which his fans would soon dance. “I mean Radio City, it feels unreal to play here,” he says, taking care of the obligatory “I made it in New York” reflections ahead of time. Still, if you’re looking for a word to describe how it feels to walk past the lobby sculptures of a theater best known for a precision dance team known as the Rockettes and an organ nicknamed “The Might Wurlitzer” while 6,000 kids dance to a European trance song with Lenny Kravitz vocals, “unreal” might be your best bet.
That said, if this was perhaps an odd booking, but it also worked, as the atmosphere of the crowded more than negated any pretension in the architecture: At last, big room house music without bottle service, bouncers, or dress codes and no one stuck at the door except for yours truly (“Sorry, we had your tickets under Nick Miller“). That’s what the purists always wanted, right? Behind the turntables, on top of the giant head that received graphics from a pair of projectors below the balcony, the 23 year-old Swede played a surprisingly aggressive set, interjecting hard techno or high-BPM dubstep just about everywhere but in the song for which Skrillex did an official remix. First, you heard the song you love (as was the case when that Lenny Kravitz tune segued into the breakthrough “Seek Bromance”), then just as the thrill of recognition passed, you heard the song you love disassembled into a pounding cacophony (as when “Seek Bromance” segued into the four young men standing in front of me holding each other around the shoulders, jumping up and down together).
Those of us whose brothers from anothers couldn’t score tickets sought tender moments elsewhere, perhaps in Avicii’s breakdown free “Hang With Me” remix or his triumphant David Guetta co-production “Sunshine,” which benefited from the addition of the vocal track from Florence and the Machine’s “Spectrum.” At one point, he teased us with hook from “My Feelings For You,” but the bass drops from Albin Myer’s “Hells Bells” preempted any would-be group hugs.
Here, the shining spotlights gave me the chance to turn around and survey the theatre. A lot of people were dancing, but few with much precision. And no dress code really meant no dress code: People wore everything from basketball jerseys to business casual, or dresses to dorm room burlesque outfits. I saw one shirt that said Le Tigre and none that said Party With Sluts. The young women to my right dressed like they were going to a festival, then climbed over the row of seats to dance with the young men from above, who were wearing t-shirts, cargo shorts, and those plastic glowstick glasses. If Patricia Field didn’t to send an intern—even a paid one—to canvas the area with flyers, she might as well have been lighting her money on fire.
For many, “unreal” was precisely the point. This was not rave as some sort of transcendental experience, it was two hours of entertainment that ended early enough for us consumers to catch a solid seven hours before waking up for work in the morning. As that, it was remarkably successful. Yet as I left the venue only to find brighter lights, bigger heads, and similar music drifting from store after store, that unreality from inside seemed practically limitless.
Critical bias: Of the generation that was introduced to house music through health class videos about the dangers of ecstasy.
Overheard: “Hopefully deadmau5 arrives and they have a battle of the heads,” –@senari, who somehow resisted the urge to jump rows and party with the young men.