Review: Calvin Harris brings VMA-winning hits to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg
Believe it or not, there was a time when Calvin Harris aspired to be — oh, isn’t this quaint? — a rock star.
No, really! This was back before A-list DJ/producers lorded over the pop music landscape from their futuristic risers like glowing, glistening androids. Harris not only wrote songs, he performed them live, in front of an actual band, in front of actual paying customers. This happened! And not all that long ago! In 2009, he sang with a full band before a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New England Patriots game in London!
Of course, we all know there’s no money in that anymore, not these days. Certainly not enough to enable you to handpick your gigs and collaborators from every corner of the globe.
But as a DJ? Man, that’s the business. As a DJ, Harris can be the house DJ at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles one night, jet to a late-night club gig in Miami the next, and somehow have time in between for a postgame concert for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
And in so doing, on a night when the crowd was dotted with neon green giveaway caps and triumphant fans were in the mood to party, the Scottish superstar became the Rays’ most of-the-moment postgame concert headliner to date.
There was some concern that the newly minted Video of the Year award winner (for writing and collaborating on Rihanna’s We Found Love) would have to shorten his gig in St. Petersburg, especially after the game went into extra innings. But the game moved quickly — it is no exaggeration to say Harris has more hits than the Rays and Rangers both had on Friday — and so about 25 minutes after Ben Zobrist ended the game with a walkoff home run (on a night when his wife, Julianna, sang the national anthem, no less), Harris was ready to go.
Though he opened with his incredibly sticky 2009 single I’m Not Alone, Harris spaced his own hits out throughout the evening. The second one, club hit Awooga, got a huge response about three songs in.
But because being a superstar DJ is a double-edged sword. No matter how many hit singles you have, it’s tough to fill an hourlong set with only your material, especially if your goal is to keep a crowd moving all night. And so, while Harris did play all the big radio hits for which he’s known, he eschewed much of his catalog in favor of tracks by Swedish House Mafia, Basement Jaxx, Nicky Romero, Daft Punk and others. Sure, it worked — when has Swedish House Mafia’s Save The World NOT worked? — but was it really necessary to play David Guetta’s Titanium second-to-last? Isn’t Guetta Calvin Harris’ primary competition as a DJ/producer these days?
Still, each time Harris played his own songs, there were some longtime fans who got just a little more amped up. How could you not get pumped up when the man who wrote We Found Love pauses during that song to scream, “Tampa, how you feeeeliiiiiiing?!?” Or when he brings you inside his force field by closing with the handclappy soul groove Feel So Close?
Start to finish, the outfield was full of guiltless dancing by glowing, blipping fans of all ages, including one teeny kid who shamed all y’all suckers on Bounce. Besides, no matter where they happen, raves are about insanity, and really, nothing was more insane than seeing THIS GUY on THIS NIGHT in THIS PLACE, on a field of fake grass in front of a tank full of sea monsters.
Plenty of people in Tampa Bay would pay to see a good, solid concert by Calvin Harris, rock star. But for now, the beats are where it’s at. And so, for the forseeable future, is Calvin Harris.
And how can we resist:
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Zobrist photo by Edmund D. Fountain, tbt*