Kaskade's Atmosphere Tour
With Amtrac and Late Night Alumni
American Airlines Arena, Miami
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Better Than: Any DJ in any arena we've ever seen.
As electronic dance music rises in popularity, a lot of DJ-producers lower the bar. Many succumb to gimmicks or let flashy lightshows take over while musicality and originality fall to the wayside. It's a real problem for those of us with higher standards, but after Saturday night's performance from Kaskade, we slept soundly, knowing certain superstars will never give up.
He's not the first to play an arena show, but he's the first to do it right. Kaskade has been working sine February to create the perfect visual accompaniment to his musical journey, and the result is an all-encompassing, 360-degree game changer. It's not that Kaskade's show floods the arena, it makes the experience feel intimate, and it couldn't be executed anywhere else.
From beginning to end, Kaskade has created the perfect experience. We arrived just as doors opened, but got caught up talking to our good friend Lady Casa, helping her pose for pictures with excited youngsters and kandi kids of all ages. We walked into the stadium seats just as openers and frequent Kaskade collaborators Late Night Alumni sang the last chords of their finishing song, the crowd roaring as they said their thank yous and goodnights.
Almost immediately, Amtrac began pumping out the big bass grooves from a smaller stage near the rear of the arena's ground floor. It must have been the largest crowd he's played to so far. The up-and-coming artist, who proudly calls Miami his home base, seemed like a left-field choice for Kaskade's arena tour, but there couldn't have been a better selection.
It's almost unfair, really. Amtrac not only entertained the young Kaskade fanatics, he educated them. The lanky man bobbed in all black, teasing the crowd with the rare familiar remix and pushing them forward with the darkest, hippest grooves they've probably ever heard. It was thrilling to see this guy rock the arena-sized crowd, bringing the fans to their feet with big builds and deep drops.
But arena shows are on tight curfews. So by 9:45, it was time for Amtrac to receive his thunderous applause and make room for the headliner. And as the opening lyrics of "Floating" rang through the room, blue lights began to glow and a mysterious smoke hung in the air. The crowd members pushed their way to the front and flocked from the halls into their seats.
After a very dramatic opening, Kaskade appeared standing at the front of the stage, microphone in hand.
"When I was young, I would stand alone. With visions of worlds that were all my own," he sang. He started in with the tour's title track, and it made perfect sense. We're about to be taken on the journey that he's envisioned since he was a child. With each song the DJ mixes, he takes us to one of these imaginary worlds, but he's not alone anymore. He's joined by thousands of adoring fans, and we're all there together. It's kind of magical (and we weren't even on drugs).
As the chorus crescendoed, Kaskade jumped into his booth, a big scorpion's claw drawn in light. Four curled structures would come to life throughout the show, beginning on either side of his booth and working their way around the dance floor at different points of the show.
Musically, he offered a great mix of new and old material. All the big hits were there, and a lot from his 2011 studio album, Fire and Ice. In his chat with Crossfade last week, Kaskade promised that the Atmosphere Tour would be a more "dynamic" experience than Freaks of Nature, and while it definitely featured peaks and valleys, it had a whole lot of attitude and plenty of bass. He certainly took the audience on a journey.
Part of what left us so impressed was the DJ's ability to work the whole space. About a third of the way through his hour-and-40-minute set, he disappeared from the stage in a blur of smoke and lights, and reappeared at the smaller stage in the back where Amtrac did his thing. It was a surprising moment that had the back half of the arena going crazy. He was a thoughtful conductor, turning around again and again to sing along with his fans in every section. This guy gets all the love back that he gives, and he gives out a lot to his crowd.
The visuals were great too. He had different animated sequences for each song, sometimes showing space, sometimes trees or animals, gorgeous cityscapes or beautiful faces singing along, but always in vibrant, melting, swirling colors. Sometimes, he would take us on narrative journeys, with cartoon stories playing out before us, including a fighter pilot flying through some futuristic megatropolis, or an animated Kaskade helping some woman fight off a giant evil robot.
We were joined by a surprise guest when "Room for Happiness" came around. Longtime Kaskade collaborator Skylar Grey came to the stage, microphone in hand, her voice as clear and hypnotic as any recording. Her gown was stellar as the universe swirled around her.
He eventually made his way back to the stage, continuing the journey and finishing with a string of big-room anthems that'd been designed specifically for this kind of massive space. Couples held each other and friends swayed with arms around shoulders for "Don't Wait." The whole crowd sang along to his remix of Lana Del Rey's "Young and Beautiful," and the audience was in quiet amazement for "4 AM." He ripped through more big hits, then addressed the crowd.
"OK, you guys," Kaskade said. "In 1997, I put my first record out, and I made my way from San Francisco to Miami. And I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all week for Winter Music Conference. And now, I'm here with you guys! You mean so much to me, thank you!"
He played "Eyes," arguably his biggest anthem, then made like he was leaving the stage before giving in to the chants for "one more song!" He answered the crowd's demand with "Turn It Down" before coming back out for one more bow and a round of heart-hands. He held his hands to his chest in gratitude as the house lights came on, all while his gear still churned out the rave colors. The venue had said "enough," or he might have been tempted to keep going.
As kids made their way out, we sat there for a few minutes, letting the whole experience sink in. If a tour is a success, you should leave a bigger fan of the artist than when you came, and that is certainly true for this reviewer.
We're proud Kaskade chose Miami for this Atmosphere kick off, and we very much hope the rest of the tour is a success, so Kaskade and his crew do another arena tour. We really couldn't think of a man more suited to the task.
Kaskade's Partial Setlist:
-"Move For Me"
-"Fire in Your New Shoes"
-"No One Knows Who We Are"
-"Why Ask Why"
-"Angel on My Shoulder"
-"It's You, It's Me"
-"Let Me Go"
-"Room For Happiness"
-"One More Chance"
-"Don't Stop Dancing"
-"Young and Beautiful (Remix)"
-"How It Is"
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-"Turn It Down"