By Dan Grossman
What comes to mind when you think of Tim Bergling?
How about when you hear his stage name, Avicii?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, melodic synths, images of flowy blonde hair, and the universal “DUH NUH NUH!” chant of “Levels” probably pop into your head.
Well, the international superstar solidified his spot among the world’s best DJs with his performance Sunday night, Sept. 23 at the Turning Stone Event Center (and no, I’m not exaggerating).
It was the producer’s first visit back to Central New York after a successful show at last year’s Juice Jam, and this year he packed the heat.
With more lights and more speakers at his disposal, Bergling gave the ravers in attendance everything they expected plus a little extra.
Opening act DJ Disk Check warmed the crowd up with a solid set that included big time anthems like Alesso and Dirty South’s “City of Dreams” and Nicky Romero’s “Toulouse.”
The original openers, Chemicals of Creation, a duo whose roots are entrenched in Syracuse, were slated to perform, but had to cancel their appearance last minute for an unknown reason.
Disk Check looked sketchy at first as he bounced on stage wearing a V for Vandetta mask and a black button-down that had a few too many buttons undone, but he managed to convince the crowd of his ability about halfway through his set when he dropped Tommy Trash’s electric and energizing remix of Deadmau5’s “The Veldt.” The wobbly synths and rolling bassline had everyone in attendance jumping and wanting more.
Disk Check’s gestures were amplified by the crowd’s energy as he transitioned into one of the year’s best tracks in Albin Meyers’ “Hells Bells.” The track features an ominous buildup full of crunchy synths and a super heavy driving bassline that had even the most conservative guests vibing at the sound of the track’s signature “ha ha” before the drop.
The set ended in unorthodox fashion as Disk Check laid down a chord progression and proceeded to beatbox his way off stage. The performance had a lot of the partiers turning their heads in question, but they ultimately awarded the DJ a warm cheer full of applause as he headed off.
Now it was Avicii’s time to shine. Everyone in the crowd knew they were there for the Swede and vocalized their anticipation with an unprovoked “A-VI-CII” chant that echoed throughout the Turning Stone’s 15,000 square-foot venue.
At 10:01 p.m. exactly, Bergling emerged on stage with a spotlight. With his hands in the air, and a red snapback on his head, the DJ started things off with a bang with Rudimental’s “Feel the Love.”
This past summer djtechtools.com published an article about the modern state of electronic dance music. The column highlighted the trite direction the genre was taking where concertgoers would “…hear the EXACT same version of a song at various tents and stages all day long…” and termed it “‘Levels’ Syndrome,” after the over-played nature of Bergling’s electronic anthem “Levels.”
The criticisms are legitimate as many artists pre-produce shows and press play, sticking to the same set each night as a safe way to please their audience.
On this night, however, Avicii dispelled any concerns and quieted every critic as he proved why he deserved his ranking of sixth in DJ Mag’s 2011 Top 100 list.
Avicii’s power lies in his unique ability to search his vast music selection and seemingly cross reference it with the crowd’s energy to create a concert experience like no other.
In short, just when you think and expect one thing, Bergling throws you a curveball that leaves your heart pounding, fists pumping, and knees bouncing. Sunday’s performance had that unique ability on display for all to see and hear.
Only a few songs into his set, Avicii dropped the explosive “Punx” by progressive powerhouse Tristan Gardner. The song features a full bass with intermittent pauses that accentuates the track’s power.
A few beat drops later the crowd roared as “Fade into Darkness” bellowed through the Bose speakers that outlined the stage. Eyes were shut and jaws were gaping as nearly every person in the Event Center screamed the song’s hook. Just as the song built, however, Avicii displayed his unpredictability by dropping the Albin Meyers remix of the track that puts a fast-paced twist on the original.
With the crowd primed for lots of bass, Bergling didn’t disappoint as he absolutely murdered the set with his selection of Nari & Milani’s “Atom.” The track is pure energy, as it is driven with drumstick clacks and a momentary war cry before voices scream “FAST BEAT GO” as a massive drop ensues. There are no chords, synths, or vocals, just bass. The track is my personal favorite and has been praised by DJs like Steve Aoki, Porter Robinson, and Hardwell.
Not even “Atom,” however, was able to claim the title of song of the night. That trophy was awarded to Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.” With the trio on its last legs — they’re on their last tour before they part ways — each of SHM’s songs has a certain reminiscence to it. The excitement reverberated to the very back of the venue as literally ever raver sang the song’s signature “…see heaven’s got a plan for you!” The energy was at an all-time high as strangers embraced one another and belted the lyrics before Avicii transitioned into the one and only “Levels.”
Confetti rained and smoke machines hissed when the song came into its chorus. It was an awesome way to close out a great performance.
Avicii’s set totaled an hour and 54 minutes and had everything from his staple original productions to big house anthems to underground tracks that had rarely been heard in live sets.
While Tim Bergling may not be well known, his stage name Avicii carries with it a certain ring that ensures a great performance and even greater experience.