Photos by LP
A torrential downpour left a glistening film of liquid glazing the surface of the pavement of the streets and sidewalks. Countless pairs of feet pitter-pattered ahead, issuing a muted crackle as the rubber soles of shoes met the ground with resolved movement. A bevvy of scantily-clad young women swarmed on the American Airlines Arena, whilst their male counterparts donned their most casual, brightly-colored garb, echoing the pervading sense of enthusiasm that marked the moments prior to the visual spectacle set to unfurl in the within the spacious confines of the building. Swedish DJ/Producer, Tim Bergling, better known by the moniker, Avicii, has accomplished in four years of producing music, what countless other DJs have failed to replicate in a much longer span of time – international success.
Having attained global superstardom on the heels of his breakthrough releases “Seek Bromance (released under the name Tim Berg),” the collaborative effort, “My Feelings For You,” featuring Sebastien Drums, and most notably, the crossover smash “Levels,” (which subsequently became the impetus for the naming of Bergling’s solo tour). In lieu of this fortuitous debut, Avicii has become a prominent figure in the realm of electronic dance music, becoming synonymous with the ascension of the Swedish house sound to the fore of commercial viability – in many ways paralleling the accomplishments of his compatriots in the super group, Swedish House Mafia.
Debuting on DJ Magazine’s annual reader’s poll of the top 100 DJs in the world, at number 6, as well as headlining a day in perhaps the world’s premier electronic music event, Miami’s own, Ultra Music Festival – there appears to be no stopping in sight for Bergling, having done it all at the tender of 22. In keeping with the relentless nature with which he has taken the industry by storm, Avicii’s performance at the AAA was indicative in every way of the extravagance of a superstar, affirming precisely why he became relevant. A flurry of flashing lights projected forward in every conceivable direction, cutting at each other from disparate angles, like bullets clashing in the inertia of flight.
Avicii emerged on a platform, nestled atop a massive anthropomorphized head, complete with visage, and what appeared to be wings overarching either side of the head. Projected images played in synchrony on either of the wings, as well the giant head, all the while Avicii energetically fist-pumped without any kind of cease, and manipulated the digitized beats on the control deck – smiling with glee. Thousands of fans filled the bleachers of the arena, echoing Bergling’s movements from the constraining space of their seats, which afforded little in the way of dancing real estate. A smaller, compacted mass of fans had gathered below the bleacher seats and on the court area of the arena, directly in front of the stage, jumping, dancing and flailing like some percolating neon-colored bag of popcorn, as the beats poured down like the rain droplets that had lined the streets.
The track selection contrasted drastically with the ethereal beauty of the elaborate stage set up, as Avicii opened it all up with either the most anticlimactic or appropriate song possible, “Levels”. Snippets of that song were heard elsewhere in the duration of the set, and it was dropped again in another instance later on in the set. This was not an isolated instance of recycling, as he also used “Fade Into Darkness” on multiple occasions. It was not very long before the extent of the heterogeneity that pervades Avicii’s repertoire became a glaring reality, for there was not enough a concerted effort on his part to integrate songs from other artists into the performance until the latter part of the performance.
The hallmark of a truly great DJ is their ability to blend different artists and genres into a cohesive whole, and this was something that did not occur at any point, as even the mixing of the selections from other artists was questionable. Bergling at one point ran the gamut from dropping Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” a fossil of a song from a bygone era – to mixing two Swedish House Mafia songs at once, with “Greyhound” and Knife Party’s remix of their track “Antidote” mashing up to not-so-satisfying results.
When taken in the context of the glorified pomp and circumstance with which Berling performed (at one point the platform he was standing on detached from the top of the head beneath it and hovered, suspended by restrains, giving the impression of levitating) and then coupled with the mixing of the songs, the entire performance was essentially rendered inadequate. There remains no question as to Avicii’s talent as producer however, that talent is not necessarily translatable to the realm of mixing, where his ability is really yet to be seen, and is only compounded further by his comparably poor showing at this year’s installment of Ultra Music Festival, where he was plagued by many of the same concerns.