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Review: Skrillex delivers a laser-tight dubstep spectacle at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa

17

December

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Sonny Moore chose dubstep. And then dubstep chose Sonny Moore.

The former screamo singer gave up rock ‘n’ roll for drum ‘n’ bass – or at least its bastardized American cousin – and suddenly, improbably, impossibly, Moore, otherwise known as Skrillex, became the face of the dominant musical movement of 2011.

Magazine covers? Check. A hit song in commercials? Check. Five Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist? Check.

Electronic dance music, and dubstep in particular, are now fully ensconced in the mainstream, which signifies, perhaps, a sea change in rock and pop music. Skrillex is right at the front and center, arguably the biggest and hottest DJ in America, the man the world has annointed to push dubstep into new creative directions.

To say Moore’s concert on Friday at the Ritz Ybor was one of the most anticipated shows of the year would be an understatement. It sold out three and a half months in advance – an unthinkable accomplishment for any club-size rock act, to say nothing of a DJ. Promoter Tony Rifugiato of No Clubs Productions, a three-decade concert industry veteran, said this was one of the hottest-selling shows he’s ever brought to Tampa. A scalper outside on the corner wanted $200 for a pair of tickets. (So exclusive was the show that, at the very last minute, Skrillex abruptly rescinded approval for nearly all photographers to cover it.)

When Skrillex finally took the stage, enveloped on a monolithic riser that resembled an electrified Fortress of Solitude, the more than 1,600 ravenous fans packed inside went wild. After three and a half months of waiting, three and a half months of want-to, the beat was about to drop, and drop hard.

Live raves are all about presentation, and Moore has that down pat. It’s possible the Ritz has never seen such a spectacular stage setup, a three-dimensional honeycomb screen painted with hypnotic images of video games, dancing skeletons, concert footage and, most impressively, a laserlike avatar whose motions were controlled by the bodysuit-wearing Moore himself.

The avatar got quite a workout, as Moore rarely stopped moving, swaying from side to side, bouncing and brushing his sweaty black mane from his spectacles, occasionally letting loose that gravelly scream that served him so well during his stint in the Tampa-spawned hardcore group From First To Last. He did not actually sing “My name is Skrillex” on My Name Is Skrillex, but everyone else did – and they were singing it until well after the show was over.

Unlike his opener, the awesomely rowdy 12th Planet, Skrillex’s set was relatively light on hip-hop and pop, though he did pop in a little Biggie, La Roux and his new,darkly bouncy remix of Avicii’s Levels. Yet the party vibe never stopped, nor did his creative impulses. His moody, piano-driven dubstep remix of Benny Benassi’s Cinema was nothing short of a love song, with lighters in the sky and couples making out. (Granted, the latter sight is not exactly out of place at a rave, but still.)

All night, Moore teased his signature hit, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, with an “Oh My God!” here and a squiggly synth wobble there. And when it finally did come, at the end, it was like the rapture. The bass was heavier than on any other song, like he'd been saving his most devastating drops for the end of the night. The beats drove into our bodies like bullets. He had been building to this. He knew exactly what he was doing. So did we.

Skrillex surely will be back in Tampa, most likely sooner rather than later, but he won’t be playing the Ritz. Perhaps he’ll be at the 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre or the St. Pete Times Forum.

Don’t believe it? Well, four years ago, you'd have laughed if we'd told you an eccentric burlesque go-go dancer would soon become the biggest superstar in all of music. Is it really so far-fetched to think a bespectacled, stringy-haired ex-metalhead raver can follow in Lady Gaga’s footsteps? After all, it wasn’t so long ago that she sold out the Ritz, too.

Only she didn’t do it three and a half months in advance.

-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*

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[Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 3:18am]

    

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