Above & Beyond at Sutra OC, September 5, 2011 (review)
It’s no secret that we have a huge amount of respect for the legendary Above & Beyond here at Dancing Astronaut, and we’ll never forget their amazing, emotional performances at EDC LA in 2010 and EDC Vegas 2011. When the trio added a stop at Sutra in Orange County to their relentless touring schedule, we knew we couldn’t miss it. Read on past the break for our review of their performance.
Above & Beyond’s show capped an epic Labor Day Weekend at Sutra that also included appearances by ATB, Gabriel & Dresden, Calvin Harris, Scooter & Lavelle, and JFK (of MSTRKRFT). It was quite the lineup, and on our way from the parking lot into the club, we met some tired but determined clubbers who’d attended every single night of the weekend. Sutra is attracting some world-class talent to Southern California, and EDM fans are taking notice.
We finally entered the venue at 9:30PM, more than 2 hours before Above & Beyond were due to take to the stage. To our surprise, the dance floor was already packed with hardcore Anjunafans who had shown up early, determined to secure their spots up front and center. Then, just after midnight, the Above & Beyond logo lit up behind the DJ stand, and suddenly, Paavo and Jono hopped onto the stage. All around the club, LCD screens began displaying another A&B trademark — the custom messages that they type to the fans in real-time. They opened with an edit of “Filmic” and “You’ve Got to Go” — two standout tracks from their newest album, Group Therapy.
Above & Beyond is so well-respected in the EDM industry because they can pass any test you could throw at an artist. As DJs, they put down some of the most unforgettable live sets of any act in the world. As producers, their tracks are played and remixed by countless other artists. As executives, they’ve built their label, Anjunabeats, into one of the most successful in the game. Their podcast, “Trance Around the World,” reaches millions of people every week.
All of those accomplishments can sound intimidating, but as we watched Paavo and Jono on stage, we couldn’t help but chuckle. They’re just two nerdy, middle-aged white guys trying (and failing) to dance. Paavo is particularly entertaining. As he DJs, his right hand glides with endless trance riffs. For some reason, he looks like he’s in excruciating pain whenever he’s on stage, as if the music is swelling up from inside him and can’t be contained.
A highlight of the set was “N20,” a brand-new track that had come “directly from Finland,” according to the video screens. It was a housey, progressive trance production that set the tone for the rest of the evening. This wasn’t an A&B festival set — it wasn’t about massive light design and emotional, introspective moments. This was an A&B club set — upbeat, fun, and incredibly danceable. “Formula Rossa” soon followed, and the crowd was slowly lifted, as Tony & Paavo accelerated the tempo and pumped up the energy.
A&B’s biggest song right now is “Sun and Moon,” and the Sutra crowd was singing from the moment they heard the first words. As the song’s signature synth line came crashing down, we felt goosebumps on our skin. However, we were really happy to hear them them play it fairly early on in the night. Don’t get us wrong — we absolutely love the track, but sometimes fans are so eager to hear it that they often don’t pay enough attention to the other songs in the set. With “Sun & Moon” out of the way, we were free to focus on the rest of the performance and move on.
Other highlights from the evening included the always memorable “Thing Called Love,” and the banging electro-trance Norin & Rad Remix to Estiva’s “Better Days.” As the evening came to a close, we heard one final track from Group Therapy, “Sun in Your Eyes.” Hearing “Sun in Your Eyes” seemed to sum up the whole evening. It’s an A&B classic — full of happy moments and sad moments, a gradual build to a huge climax that you can’t help but dance to. It also allowed Paavo and Jono to share a variation of Above & Beyond’s trademark message. This time, they wrote:
“There are only a few things you never forget: your first kiss, falling in love for the first time, losing your virginity, the birth of your first child, and seeing the sun in your newborn’s eyes”