Review / photos: Zedd's stunning True Colors Tour blows minds at Tampa's USF Sun Dome
A blockbuster tour powered by eye-popping technology. Surprise star cameos at nearly every stop. Some of the most inescapable pop songs of this decade.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 Tour? Think again. This is Zedd’s True Colors Tour, which on Saturday blew 3,585 minds at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa. And in its own way, Zedd’s trek is just as ambitious and spectacular as Swift’s.
Since 2012, the Russian-born, German raised DJ born Anton Zaslavski, 26, has been one of the world’s most successful dance music superstars – no small feat, considering EDM's rise in America might be the dominant story of this decade in pop music. He's one of the few DJs who actually has the clout to headline arenas like the Sun Dome.
And even by the outlandish standards of technological wizardry in EDM stagecraft, his True Colors Tour is above-and-beyond staggering, an all-consuming phantasmagoria of lasers, sparks, flames, smoke, graphics and even little light-up whirligigs that dropped to the crowd from the heavens.
Opening with his soaring Beautiful Now, Zedd popped into view in the center of a riser the size of an IMAX screen, engulfed by rainbow wormholes and columns of CO2.
Though he’s one of EDM’s most recognizable names, he never really gave fans a great look at his face – mostly he bounced with ceaseless energy all night, wafting and waving his fans, while the screen not just swallowed him but seemed to blast right through him. Sometimes the effect was that of a digital trompe l’oeil – Zedd half-immersed in a night sea, silhouetted by a rising blood-red moon on Bumble Bee; Zedd at the bow of a speeding spaceship as Daft Punk’s Da Funk morphed into his and Ariana Grande’s Break Free.
So enormous and crystal-clear was Zedd’s riser/screen that your eyes began to play tricks on you. Is that CGI trickery, you’d wonder, or actual fire? (Spoiler alert: It was actual fire.) Am I imagining those swirls of color in my peripheral vision, or are they really there? (Spoiler: Depends how much peyote you’d taken.)
You could go on and on and on about Zedd’s astonishing, flawlessly executed tech – rainbow-tinted lasers that flooded the Sun Dome on Find You; pyramids and pentagrams of light that swallowed the DJ whole; dizzying, alternating blasts of red and blue lights that made the arena feel like a living 3D photo. But it’s worth noting he was not above also using practical effects like pillars of smoke and flames and cannons of streamers and confetti, all of which served to heighten the surreal effect of the newer tech. Best example: When a flock of cardboard-winged whirligigs with flashing LED bulbs were tossed onto the floor of the Sun Dome before the encore -- little pocket-sized, human-powered raver drones! How cute!
The point is all of it felt visionary, the work of an artist determined to convince skeptics that live EDM is worth the prices of admission. For non-EDM fans, it remains a surprisingly hard case to make. While DJs rule major festivals and high-end clubs, the venues in between are still hit-and-miss, even for an artist as popular as Zedd. Big swaths of the Sun Dome looked awfully empty on Saturday.
The best case for Zedd as an arena-filler, as always, remains his hit singles, a stream of euphoric collaborations with pop sirens that crash into the id like forever-cresting waves: Stay the Night with Paramore’s Hayley Williams, I Want You To Know with Selena Gomez, the Grammy-winning Clarity with Foxes. Though he lingered on others’ hits here and there – Daft Punk’s One More Time, Clean Bandit’s Rather Be, a mix of MAGIC!’s Rude that mercy-killed all traces of reggae – the songs that felt most like huge, arena-wide hugs were his own. The most powerful might be Find You with Matthew Koma and Miriam Bryant, a chest-pounding duet big enough for Broadway. When Zedd’s radiant hues shot across the Sun Dome on that one, the positive energy went through the roof.
None of these singers, unfortunately, showed up for a surprise cameo on Saturday. In fact, no one did. Whereas other cities on the True Colors Tour have seen drop-ins from DJs like Steve Aoki, Steve Angello and Krewella, Tampa drew the short stick from Zedd's Rolodex, since all we got was a slightly longer set from opener Dillon Francis.
(At least Francis is a plenty appealing DJ in his own right. His songs are bassier, nastier and more biting than Zedd’s, yet he delivers them with a winking sense of ironic humor – blasting audiences with images of googly-eyed Drake and, on Trap Queen, Queen Elizabeth; mashing the Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way into his and DJ Snake’s Get Low.)
Even without a guest DJ on hand, Zedd’s True Colors Tour is still one for the ages. No surprise there – you don’t plot a tour this massive, this groundbreaking, without believing you can pull it off with panache.
Sound like anyone else you know? Hey, Zedd was born in 1989, too.
-- Jay Cridlin