Review: Zedd blasts lasers, lights and hits at the Ritz Ybor in Tampa
The allure of live electronic dance music has a lot to do with the immersive insanity of the moment. It’s a concept that Zedd absolutely understands, judging from his eye-popping Moment of Clarity tour stop at the Ritz Ybor Saturday night.
For an hour and 45 minutres, the Russian-born, German-raised DJ and producer spun a selection of his hits (Spectrum, Clarity, Codec) and others’ to a sold-out crowd of neon-clad partiers. But more astonishing than the music itself was Zedd’s stunning array of lights, lasers, LEDs and videos, a hyperreal spectacle that was better than any 3-D movie you’re going to see this year.
Every other song was accompanied by a how’d-he-do-that visual – blue icicle-like columns, rainbow-tinted clouds, CGI microchips hurtling through space, blasts of CO2 and confetti, lasers in teal and Miami Vice magenta fanning in unison five feet above the audience’s heads. During Lost At Sea, his song with OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Zedd was ensconced onstage in a spinning pyramid of lasers, a dreamlike effect that must have freaked at least a few beans in the house.
The only thing that didn’t get illuminated was Zedd’s face – all night, the DJ was little more than a bobbing, bouncing, back-lit head and set of shoulders. The man born Anton Zaslavski may be a classically trained musician, but he showed little of that refined talent on Saturday, preferring to let the singles from his impeccably produced album Clarity do the talking.
It’s probably for the best. This tour was designed to be Zedd’s American coming out party (though he’s far from a no-name; he even performed with Spectrum vocalist Matthew Koma at last year’s 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball), but it’s gotten off to a rough start. One fan died and two more were hospitalized following overdoses of the rave drug MDMA, or Molly, at the DJ’s Aug. 28 tour opener in Boston, prompting him to cancel a second show the next night. A few days later, the final day of New York’s Electric Zoo festival – including a main stage performance by Zedd – was canceled following more overdoses. The deaths have prompted headlines like “Why MDMA is destroying EDM,” and Zedd has found himself mentioned in all of them. Promoters for Saturday’s show said there were there were extra EMTs on hand at the Ritz, just to be safe.
In an interview earlier this week, Zedd said his advice to fans is to focus less on drugs and more on the music, and for the most part, the Tampa crowd seemed to take that to heart. Every time Zedd played one of his own singles, the crowd screamed the lyrics like they were at a Katy Perry concert, starting with the gently plinked opening notes of Spectrum. The music dropped out on big hits like Clarity, so fans could sing alongside the disembodied voice of British singer Foxes.
Tampa fans got a treat as Zedd played an extended mix of Stay The Night, his new single with Paramore singer Hayley Williams – the single is due next week, and he was working to cobble together a playable mix as late as this past Wednesaday. And everyone lost their mind when a titanic 8-bit Link began to crawl across the gigantic LED riser, sparking a shower of green lasers as Zedd dropped The Legend of Zelda (Original Mix).
About 45 minutes in – just after Clarity – the tone of the concert shifted, as Zedd moved into a mini-Top 40 subset. Here he threw in GOOD Music’s trap-happy Mercy; Jay Z and Kanye West’s blooping, swaggering N----s in Paris; Capital Cities’ Safe and Sound, Icona Pop’s I Love It and M83’s Midnight City. And all night, he had no problem dropping in hits from EDM A-listers like Daft Punk (Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger), Avicii (Silhouettes), Deadmau5 (Suckfest9001), Calvin Harris (Awooga) and his own remixes of Skrillex (Breakin’ a Sweat), Swedish House Mafia (Save The World) and Empire of the Sun (Alive).
As Zedd blended together electro-driven anthems from pop and EDM royalty, every now and then he’d splice in a line from one of his own songs (i.e. Clarity's “Why are you my remedy?”), almost as if to say, Hey, I belong among these greats.
And you know what? He actually kind of does.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. For a slideshow of photos from the show, click the headline of this post.