Event Review: Madeon’s virtuoso performance closes Virgin Mobile Free Fest
In a strange way, the world has grown up with Madeon. When he first burst onto the scene in 2010, he was already hailed as a visionary and genius. His technical mastery of certain production and performance aspects was clear – we were all waiting to see what came next.
Fast forward three years. A teenager (he is still 19), his baby-faced appearance exudes excited nervous energy. Standing backstage in his trademark white tee with black jacket, the boy wonder chats and fidgets with bubbly enthusiasm minutes before the show. He double checks his white iPhone, preparing his timer and scanning Twitter one last moment, like any other young adult.
Except Madeon is a cognizant rock star. The closing act of Virgin Mobile Free Fest, he commands a crowd of thousands of loyal, almost cult, fans. They have waited all day for him, fighting through the monsoon showers now whipping through the Maryland area. Fat water droplets whistle through the forested area, and the trees offer no shade from the massive downpour. Everyone is drenched, and water even finds its way in large puddles on the outskirts of the stage area.
No matter, the crowd adores him as he steps onto the stage. Screams from girls dominate, and he lets a grin slip unconsciously. His spindly pianist fingers begin dancing across the Novation Launchpads, tilted towards the audience, and the familiar tune of his smash “Technicolor” shines through.
As he flies through song after song, the greens and yellows of the pad play hopscotch all across the board. This setup is no sign of bravado or arrogance – no “look at me” ego that usually accompanies such displays. It is entrancing to watch him at his craft, the thrilling skills that have vaulted him to superstardom in the first place. Like a concert pianist in a solo recital, his onstage performance is as important as the music. You go to a show to see him play, not just listen to music.
His set pays a subtle homage to the French countrymen that heavily influenced him, and shades of Daft Punk, Breakbot, and others are sprinkled throughout the 100 minutes. Where Madeon has really excels is his ability to move and connect with the crowd. Classic favorites, from Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Heads Will Roll” to Blur’s “Song 2” send the mob to singing frenzies, not to mention his hits of “The City” and remixes of “Raise Your Weapon” and “The Night Out.”
Since I first saw him two years ago, he is far more polished of a live act than before. His technical skill remains impeccably brilliant – his lanky hands are just as spry as they were years ago, hopping on the dozens of buttons. No, it’s the command he has on stage now: you are at Madeon’s pre-game, party, and night out. Near the end of the show, after bouncing to the music like a youth pogoing on a bed, he vaults on the decks to take quick iPhone snaps of the crowd. His smile is huge, and he pops the crowd a huge thumbs-up. His persona is endearing, and as he wraps up the set, the lines between youth and professionalism begin to blur. One side of him is trying to focus on his craft, the other attempting to let completely loose.
As soon as the music is over, he beelines to the front to greet his fans – it’s unclear who is more excited to see the other. The fans push and shove their way towards him, and the fence separating the two begins to tip, almost crushing the slender artist before security scrambled to shove it back.
The night begins to clear, and the rain slowly relents. He thanks us for a great time (that actually happened), and he is quickly off, onto his next flight to Los Angeles.
With his newest studio album soon to arrive, expectations snowball as the world eagerly watches him mature. You get the sense that Madeon is taking his time growing into his own, enjoying the little bits of the process: Because even young superstars indulge in a little GTA V and Snapchat.