CONCERT REVIEW: CALVIN HARRIS
3/17/12 @ the Congress Theater – Chicago, IL
Let me preface this by saying I’m a HUGE fan of Calvin Harris. I’ve been following him since his 2007 debut “I Created Disco” – an impressive beginning to a blossoming career. I’ve bought the records, I’ve watched the videos – I’ve added him to dozens of mixtapes. I consider myself a real, true fan.
Which is why I don’t like to be lied to.
In an age of an electronic revival, there’s a lot of competition to a seemingly simple formula: bleep-bloop-break-chorus-bloop. It takes a certain finesse to stand out among a genre that can easily fall flat in the wrong hands. Scottish-born Calvin Harris got an overnight break when his material was noticed on MySpace – and has since transformed himself into one of the most successful producers of modern times. Harris’ immediately recognizable approach is brilliant – with two (almost three) solo LPs to his name, he maintains his own style of music while producing songs for some of pop’s biggest names on the side (Kylie Minogue, LMFAO, Kelis).
His sound mirrors the twenty-somethings that make up the majority of his crowd: reminiscent of 80’s New Wave but firmly rooted in modern electro – with an explosive crossover appeal. The indie kids love him for “Colours” – the club kids love him for “We Found Love” (with Rihanna) – and both sides of the fence love his new song, “Feel So Close”. With an invariably varied sold-out crowd, Harris was poised to bring live, full-band life to his repertoire of hits. Except he didn’t.
I have no problem watching electronic musicians perform DJ sets of their material –
if they’re billed that way.
Performing atop a massive riser, Calvin Harris played an extended show behind a beautifully done light / fog / confetti setup. The crowd was fervent, the energy was high – but for such a giant event, simply standing behind some turntables & pointing in the air leaves a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. As I said, I’ve followed Harris for 5 years now – lusting after YouTube videos of his live sets (like this – or this), and expected to hear unique versions of his material – NOT the same exact recording I had on in the car on the way to the show. Sure, there are limitations to playing electro live, but Harris proved his worth as a live act time and time over in the past – leaving me feel like Chicago was slightly cheated. For someone so deep into the world of production, DJing is the easy way out – which would have been great, once again, had the show been billed AS A DJ SET.
The fair-weather fans who only came to hear the Rihanna song wouldn’t mind – and it’s not to say I completely did either – but for those of us expecting a concert (not a guy pressing “PLAY”) left the Congress with an aching let-down. Don’t get me wrong, this show was a blast. On one of the biggest “party” days of the year, this sort of event was appropriately apropos. However, the crowd was barely addressed – and inexplicably mid-set, Harris went into remixes of both Basement Jaxx & Avicii songs – which fared well in the moment, but seemed confusing on the drive home. For such a young, talented, energetic entertainer like himself, he sold himself & his dedicated audience short. Harris didn’t rise to fame as a DJ – he’s morphing into one now that his notoriety is becoming more public, and to me – that’s a shame.
Again, I’m not saying this was a bad show – it’s just the musician in me that goes,
“What the fuck, man?“.