One Last Tour at The United Center: Swedish House Mafia plays first and final show in Chicago
The world’s favorite Swedes descended upon Chicago for the first and last time this week, making their One Last Tour one first tour for a more than ready Midwest. After months of dot-spotting, Stubhub-stalking and absence excuse-plotting, the United Center’s sold-out crowd came armed with an excitement that spilled from the chaotic foyer and only built as the minutes after Antony Attalla’s underappreciated Chicago house set ticked by.
The venue was packed with neon, glitter and facepaint-covered bodies scrambling over seats, searching for the perfect vantage point to gaze at the still empty larger-than-life booth. After half an hour had passed and it felt like the anxious crowd would burst if it had to wait any longer, the bass of “Greyhound” broke out and the arena went wild, but only for a second: It was the infamous vodka ad. They screamed, they laughed, they loved. Then the real show began.
The VJ cued up, the screams intensified, a curtain fell and there they were; Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell and Steve Angello, together with fists in the air for the very last time on Chicago soil. As a drawn out intro of the real “Greyhound” rang out, Axwell made an almost unnecessary introduction: “Chicago, we are the Swedish House Mafia,” he yelled over the screams. “Are you guys ready?” The answer was “Hell Yes.”
The first blast of fireworks came as the intro took form, and soon cartoonish mechanical greyhounds were running across the four screens that made up the massive set up. The video would transform from spiderwebs to amplifiers to spiraling steps to straight static as the night progressed, but the crowd itself was nearly as entertaining to watch.
With three levels of seats and a throbbing floor, the country’s largest arena was heaving with Spirit Hoods and Sweden jerseys, first timers and fanatics, all eagerly awaiting the spectacle they had been promised — and man did they make the space shake when they heard a familiar tune.
The first half of the set may have been slightly lacking in the familiarity department, especially for those who first fell for “Don’t You Worry Child.” Rather than playing their radio-ready originals, the trio played non-album instrumentals, giving album tracks drawn out transitions, teasing the unfamiliar and inciting squeals from the crowd the moment they recognized a familiar vocal.
Fans who didn’t get the memo that the festivities started at 9:30 continued to trickle in as the trio dropped tracks like “Leave the World Behind” and Daft Punk’s “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger” between blackouts and firework showers, but the seats were full by the time the Swedes kicked off a string of hits with Alesso’s “Lose My Mind” and their remix of Supermode’s “Tell Me Why.” Only a montage of the trio’s faces, a bit of Ansol & Dyro’s “Top of the World,” and a smattering of Tommy Trash’s “Sunrise” remained before the curtain dramatically dropped: the first hour had come to an end.
Swedish House Mafia & Laidback Luke – Leave The World Behind (Original Mix)
“Thank you Chicago for making us feel so welcome,” Axwell’s voice rang out unseen. “Now it’s time to turn off your brains.”
A heaven-esque video took over the screen, following those three familiar dots on a celestial journey and distracting the crowd during the short break. Then the curtain fell away, and it was time for round two.
Where first half may have felt a little off at times, the second half delivered, upping the BPM and turning on the previously unused lasers. After a gleeful “Here we go!” from Axwell, the strains of “Antidote” rang out, complete with pyrotechnics.
Swedish House Mafia & Knife Party – Antidote (Original Mix)
But it wasn’t just any “Antidote.” It was a remix of two remixes, a blend of Tommy Trash’s vocal edit and Knife Party’s intense rework. You had to hear it to believe it, but we would believe anything at this point — we were partying in a sports arena on a Wednesday night with both guys in suits and girls with daisy chains. Nothing was impossible.
That element of unreal plays a role in every SHM show, and as lasers swirled, strobes flashed and shapes spun on screen, the fact you could only see the Swedes when the video backlit them seemed to bother approximately no one. When Axwell’s remix of “In My Mind” came on immediately after a blend of Justice’s “We Are Your Friends” and Alesso’s “Lose My Mind,” that number fell into the negatives: who wanted to watch three guys spinning knobs when a mesmerizing light show was to be had?
As the second half continued the crowd sang, the crowd danced, the crowd pretended to know the words to “Teenage Crime” and yelled along to “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” But after a pryo-drenched display with CHICAGO emblazoned across an American flag and speech from Axwell that hailed both the city’s ability to party on a Wednesday and to wear no clothing in the winter, it was time for “Don’t You Worry Child.”
Coldplay – Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall (Swedish House Mafia Remix)
Say what you will about the track, when its guitar hit the speakers every single voice was raised, so much so that the trio dropped the vocals to let the crowd sing. Radio or no radio, it was a moment of unity that the crowd may not have even realized they were sharing. When the confetti fell the night could have happily ended there for many — but the best was saved for last.
The last stretch of the set blurred as the Swedes seemed to pummel the crowd with their classics. Was there “Miami to Ibiza?” Yes, Axwell-directed singalong included. Did they play “Sweet Disposition” and “One?” Absolutely, vocal edit included. And did it end on “Save The World?” But of course. But as the trio geared up for the grand finale and Axwell asked “What do we do now?” his promise to “not leave us like this” did not go unfulfilled.
Because they didn’t just play “Save The World.” They played a blend of “Save The World,” “Reload,” “Don’t You Worry Child,” “Reload” again and then the ending chords of “Greyhound,” all while balloons fell, a wall of sparks blazed, people screamed and streamers flew. This was what people came for. This was the Swedish House Mafia sensory overload that technicians slave over. And this was the end: the final chords rang out, the room went black and the credits rolled.
“Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello would like to thank every single person in this room…” the credits proclaimed as people blinkingly tried to come back to reality. Whether they succeeded in coming to terms with the fact that Swedish House Mafia had just come, raved and loved with them for the first and last time is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that the Swedes gave Chicago a Wednesday it won’t soon forget — and for that, Swedish House Mafia, Chicago loves you.