Above & Beyond's legendary ABGT100 took place in Madison Square Garden, New York City this past Saturday, October 18th, 2014.
If you missed the live set or missed the XM stream, you can now relive the 2 hour set from Above & Beyond's SoundCloud player below:
Review of the Night:
It is no secret in the electronic dance music world that Above & Beyond's live show, known by fans as ‘Group Therapy' is one of the most highly regarded performances in the genre. The trio of gentlemen rely on the crowds emotional response to their signature messages just as much as they do with their music, and the result is an incredible joint catharsis, among initially strangers; but as anyone who has attended an Above & Beyond show can tell you who, you may all start as strangers but you leave as friends. Above & Beyond's weekly radio show, also called Group Therapy, recently reached its 100th episode milestone and the entire Anjunabeats' family got together in a sold out Madison Square Garden to celebrate with 18,000 of their closest friends. The outcome was spectacular.
First on the bill for the night in the live performance category (I differentiate live set, because Above and Beyond played a one hour deep set, exclusively for those watching the live stream online.) was rising superstar Ilan Bluestone. To say that 2014 was Ilan's year is an understatement. His original productions from ‘Spheres', ‘Big Ben', and more recently ‘Snapdragon' have been critically and fan acclaimed. His remix of Oceanlab's 2004 trance anthem, ‘Satellite' further proved Ilan's legitimacy in producing powerful and original tracks. Needless to say the London native started the night off with a bang. Progressive house and trance tracks spilled from the speakers as the crowd had no choice but to respond with total enthusiasm. The stands of the Garden were half filled when Ilan took the stage but it only took a few short minutes of his set ringing out through the venue to attract the entire attendance to quickly find their seats to be immersed by the spectacle. Ilan mixed both original productions, tracks from his Anjuna brother's as well as a few unreleased tracks. It is clear from his ABGT100 set that the best is yet to come for Ilan and after a year like 2014, that is more promising than almost any other DJ in a similar position.
Next up was a man who I respect endlessly. The Anjunabeats' virtuoso Andrew Bayer. Not to sound redundant but the DC native also had a massive year. Andrew hit two Beatport trance #1's with his smash hits, ‘Once Lydian' and ‘Bullet Catch'. Bayer is known for not particularly aligning with a specific genre. This was clearly displayed by the set he choose to play out. Bayer has released deeper and melodic tracks, as shown by his mega-hit of 2013, ‘Need Your Love', as well as progressive house and trance tracks. The amazing thing with Bayer is he does all flawlessly. The man rarely tours, he is dedicated to the studio most of the year, and his hard work is apparent. Lucky for the crowd as MSG Bayer brought with him a slew of future hits as well as old classics. I am hard pressed to find a moment as exciting for the crowd as when he mixed in the drop of A&B's remix of ‘Blue Monday'. It came very unexpectedly and in a more melodic section of the set, so the unsuspecting crowd responded with strong euphoric screams. As 10 o'clock started to approach I realized that Bayer had not played ‘Once Lydian', in fact…Ilan did not play his biggest hit of the year either, his remix of ‘Satellite'. Of course all my questions were answered in A&B's two hour set but first up was Anjuna's own superman, Mat Zo.
Mat was outstanding. There is really no other way to put it. The first two acts of the night played some of the most diverse and exciting sets I have seen all year. Going up sandwiched between a rising star, a prodigy of music theory, and undisputed legends is not the easiest place to be. But Mat responded with grace and a set that was not only surprisingly hard but also just incredibly fun. Bass kicked hard as Mat reminded all 18,000 members of the crowd why he is now a household name. He mixed several original tracks and focused on a darker hard progressive vibe for the first half of his set. As he began to wind down the intensity it was clear that Zo really started to have fun. A disco vibe took over his set and everyone could not have been having a better time. He played out Duck Sauce's infamous hit ‘Barbara Streisand' which one would think had no business making an appearance, but the timing was perfect and the response was overwhelming positive. He continued to close up with ‘Something Something Champs' the Kaskade mix of his own track and Moguai's 2013 smash hit.
11pm struckand finally the men of the night took the stage. After what seemed to be 15 minutes of applause and cheers, the trio opened up with their new single, which was debuted in Time Square the prior evening, ‘We Are All We Need'. The melodic vocal trance vibe of the tune set the tone that the night was going to be emotional. The track warmed up the TranceFamily in attendance but also primed those their for a diverse show as well. For the first hour of their set it seemed like A&B displayed more unreleased tracks than familiar ones. They ranged from melodic and emotion to hard and fierce. It was incredible to see the unspoken teamwork between the three men on stage. One focused on mixing, one wrote the groups signature messages to the crowd while another always was running on and off stage, handling the production of the event. All three did each role interchangeably yet everything went off without a hitch. It really shows the chemistry among the guys, and explains how the group can be so successful now well into their second decade together.
The second half of their two hour set had many more familiar hits in it. Around the hour and 16 minute mark, the guys mixed in ‘Sun and Moon' with Bayer's ‘Once Lydian'. A dangerous move as man is not built to handle with those kind of feels. As a choir of 18 thousand voices rang out in unison, it was great to see the expression on the security guards face who clearly never had seen anything like what was unfolding before them. Many people were expecting the original Sun & Moon but in my mind the mix was better. It has been years since Group Therapy the album was released, and while the track will always be a classic, sometimes an update is necessary. Nothing proved this point more than when A&B played out Ilan's remix of their 2004 hit ‘Satellite'. The crowd sang harder than ever, tears were rolling off faces in all directions and it was clear that what ever it was A&B wanted to accomplish by playing the Garden that night, that they had done it.
As their set ended at 1 in the morning, the three guys came forward in front of the decks. Paavo held the Mic in his hand and instead of interrupting the applause and approval of a packed stadium he stood there for almost 2 minutes. Not in an egotistical or self serving way, but in a way that he needed to fully take in one of those small moments that life is made of. The guys saw their vision come to life. And thanked everyone who made it possible. On the way out of the venue I thanked a security guard as I usually do at events, he pulled me aside and returned the thanks, adding that, “this was one of the most respectful crowds he had ever worked with, and whatever the media is saying about you kids, they are wrong”. I let him know that Above & Beyond is not your average concert and told him I was happy he was able to be apart of the night with us all. That is what it comes down too, human connections. Nothing makes memories more strong or emotional. Above & Beyond understands this concept, and that is why they call their performances Group Therapy, because nothing brings up the trivial nature of human problems, and allows people to forget and move on, like a room full of people bonding over a common cause. We can't wait for ABGT150, cheers to many more Jono, Paavo and Tony, you all deserve it.