Live: Swedish House Mafia Reign Supreme At Madison Square Garden
Swedish House Mafia w/A-Trak, Jacques Lu Cont
Madison Square Garden
Friday, December 18
Better than: Sitting around and becoming convinced audio of a microwave breaking is actually a leaked Daft Punk track.
Swedish House Mafia sold out Madison Square Garden in nine minutes for Friday night's mammoth "One Night Stand." Impressive enough, but if the deafening crowd response was an indication, the trio of Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Axwell could have filled the space three times over. Playing MSG is a coronation for any group, but Angello sounded like he was celebrating on behalf of a worldwide electronic music family when he said early on, "We've come a long way. We put a nightclub in Madison Square Garden!" The merchandise for sale was just as inclusive, emphasizing the singularity and historical significance of a DJ group filling MSG. (One t-shirt slogan: "We Came. We Raved. We Loved.")
As early as 7 p.m. Penn Station was studded with flashes of neon clothing, but mostly it was too cold for everyone except the most committed to sport full-on rave regalia. There were sons with fathers, daughters and mothers in equally revealing outfits, and a large contingent of apparent sorority and fraternity members, whooping and shrieking as they met up in packs near the front entrance. French producer Jacques Lu Cont, responsible for startlingly sublime remixes for the likes of Gwen Stefani and Madonna, opened the night with a set of slow-burn, clangorous house, soaked in sirens and chugging guitars. Lu Cont (real name: Stuart Price) ping-ponged between poppy lines and well-sheathed vocal teases, the highlight being an eerie remix of Royksöpp's "What Else Is There" with the breathy, paranoid vocals of Karin Dreijer Andersson.
By the time A-Trak began playing inside a wood-paneled, light-up "A," roving water vendors were doing gangbusters business and a pack of gum might as well have been equivalent to a hundred-dollar bill. The set simultaneously evoked both hardcore hands-in-the-air rave and banging modern electro with occasional excursions into hip-hop, where A-Trak showed off the scratching skills that won him the DMCs World DJ Championship at age 15 (if you haven't seen the video, prepare yo'self). The set combined disco sprawl with the incisive functionality of electro, veering from the Rapture's "How Deep Is Your Love" and A-Trak's own Duck Sauce hit "Barbra Streisand" to Daft Punk's "Robot Rock." However, MSG seemed to be swallowing overall energy, and latecomers were still filing in by the time of Swedish House Mafia's 10:45 start.
The projections for the Swedes' opening was inspired, a jumble of frenetic fonts and psychedelic colors saturating close-ups of overloaded audio machines, clearly patterned after the opening credits of Gaspar Noe's "Enter The Void." The curtains dropped to reveal Ingrosso, Axwell, and Angello, dressed entirely in black, DJing in the middle of a enormous semi-circle video screen, flanked by equally huge screens on either side. The assault began. With six hands constantly fiddling with EQ, the mix featured an impenetrable low end and overpowering synth rushes which occasionally differentiated themselves between songs. The group's name flashed relentlessly on the screens, no matter the visuals, and the visuals themselves eschewed creativity for scale. Lyrics were wholly aspirational, whether pertaining to partying, fucking, or world-saving, and they were so prominent as to be surprisingly intrusive.