It was around the midway point of the show that I realized I had been successfully manipulated.
We all know Deadmau5 by now, we’ve jammed along when Strobe rips its way out of the radio and we’re all impressed by the videos and twitter images showcasing his impressive live show. But let’s face it; everyone has a great live show now, it’s almost impossible not to unless that’s the implicit statement you’re trying to make – ‘I’m bare-bones, be entertained by me and the guys and girls on stage with me, or else be bored’. Deadmau5 would never do that to us, the music and the visuals are intertwined. So much so, that you forget he could very well just be on autopilot.
He’s a DJ, He could float us the same setlist he played out the previous night (he did not, not even close, I checked). He could mathematically pinpoint his bass drops for maximum explosive impact, but he didn’t do that either. He could have had a friend wear his Mau5 head while he was chilling out at the hotel, but he didn’t do any of that.
Deadmau5 takes his head off, tries on other heads, drinks his beer, points at someone, points at another guy, walks down to the stage to volcanic applause and talks to us a little bit. His conversation isn’t planned or grandiose and it seems to come out of nowhere.
That’s the midway point where I realized he’d gotten to me. I went maybe 45 minutes until I tossed out the whimsical thought I’d log the whole playlist and be a serious reviewer and he had me up and dancing. Maybe it’s the salesman in me, I just root for the guy selling his product well, or maybe Deadmau5 is just really really effective. Maybe he’s not selling anything. Seems like he’s just having fun. And we the audience were too (it’s weird I had a perfectly fine chair, and I was supposed to be paying review style attention, but I couldn’t and hey, my apologies to the folks behind me that had to see me “dance”).
I was constantly impressed by the balance he struck, looking at once focused and visually dynamic and at the same time being incredibly loose (making mistakes to be honest, but that’s not really a criticism, more on that later). He had midi integrated lights timed to certain arpeggios on the one hand but then he’d have some kind of throwaway screengrab from a random videogame he liked playing on the gigantic stage/rubix cube. His show is like the arena equivalent of your friend who has a really messy desk- but don’t touch the shiny widget thing on it- it’s there for a reason, but the reason only makes sense to your friend, and of course they can touch it and in actuality, they don’t even care – but still, don’t touch it, you don’t know what it does!
Deadmau5 deserves to be chill and enjoy his shows too, he’s still making tight unique electronic music, my count was 4 songs from his latest release, not including the snippets that show up in the transitions. That’s pretty impressive, he’s lucky, no ones shouting play ‘Some Chords’ like it’s Free Bird or something. He did play ‘Some Chords’ but he weaved into the outro to ‘Ghosts N Stuff’, really smart.
Equally smart were the aforementioned mistakes, they weren’t even really mistakes, more like choices to hold back a drop a little long or a choice to let a breakbeat sample go one extra bar so it bumps up into the next piece. For me it was absolutely refreshing, it told me he was engaged in his moment, he was pulling off technical changes he couldn’t possibly be faking.
Final thought; once I was up and dancing I was up for good, and so was everyone else. How do you make an arena full of people dance for two hours? It’s pacing. Fantastic pacing, by three quarters in he drops ‘Legendary’ and it lulls you in softly and then punches you in the gut like that girl Jessica in 6th grade who you were sure liked you but really just had some problems at home (that might just have been an experience common to me, but you get the picture)
Next time I see Deadmau5 (and I’m pretty sure there will be a next time) I’ll just go with the flow and enjoy the manipulation early. Because it feels pretty good.
Review – Mike Rogers
Photos – Kieron Yates