There’s one element that makes an Above & Beyond show more than just an EDM concert.
Newcomers and veterans alike will attest that the energy at an Above & Beyond concert is unlike any other. Friendship, compassion, and goodwill all combine into a sort of gravity that pulls the crowd together.
This is true on most nights, but on Saturday, I found it especially so.
Jono Grant, one third of Above & Beyond, revealed two weeks ago that his sister had died very suddenly. He pulled out of the North American tour temporarily to go back to the UK. During his time there, he helmed a poignant episode of ABGT (#121), dedicating two songs to his sister: Above & Beyond’s own “Good for Me,” and London Grammar’s “If You Wait.”
On Saturday, Jono was back in the US, along with Paavo Siljamäki, to man the decks for the second night of San Francisco performances on the We Are All We Need Tour. The venue was Bill Graham Civic Center, the massive performance space just next to city hall, often graced by acts as large as Skrillex, Bassnectar, and Hardwell.
Anjunabeats newcomer 16 Bit Lolitas served as the first opener, warming up the crowd with his cool and relaxed sound. The vibe was, of course, the total opposite of the second opener, Seven Lions, who laid out a blazing hot set as if he himself were the headliner. Kicking things off with his emotional remix of Velvetine’s gorgeous classic, “The Great Divide,” Seven Lions, a.k.a. Jeff Montalvo, weaved together eclectic tracks that ranged in style from his signature melodic dubstep to big room EDM, drum & bass, and even psytrance. (That last one came in the form of his divisive one-off, “Lucy.”) I personally find his melodic dubstep sound more appealing than the patchwork of styles that he favors in the large settings where I’ve seen him perform, so I came away somewhat disappointed. Even so, watching him live is always a treat. There’s no denying the sheer intensity Jeff brings to the decks, his leonine mane swinging as he enthusiastically headbangs to each monster track he throws down.
Above & Beyond took the stage to the opening track on their new album, “Quieter is Louder,” which soon morphed into the dark and powerful “Sticky Fingers.” Their set was a predictable rundown of Anjunabeats stalwarts and newcomers, with the necessary hat tips to Ilan Bluestone and Jerome Isma-Ae (“Tension” vs. “A Thing Called Love“), Andrew Bayer (a new track from his Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep EP), and Mat Zo (“Pyramid Scheme“) – although, I was surprised not to hear any Myon & Shane 54 productions all night. Other tracks from the new album included “Blue Sky Action” (the “push the button” track), “Out of Time,” “Peace of Mind,” “Counting Down the Days,” “Hello,” “All Over the World,” and, of course, the titular “We’re All We Need.” I was hoping to hear them drop the Tony McGuinness-voiced “Excuses,” but no dice there.
The community feel was in full effect at all times. As usual, the boys kept the atmosphere intimate through through typed messages onscreen, sharing memories of the first time they came to SF – then well into their OceanLab phase – along with more generic, uplifting messages such as “You are all we need;” “This moment is all there is;” “This is your year;” etc. During the encore performance, they played the club mix of “Good for Me,” touchingly dedicated to Jono’s sister, Charlotte. (On last week’s ABGT, he had said that the track summed up his relationship with her perfectly.) Finally, they ended with the closer track on their new album, “Treasure.” The lyrics – “Treasure is measured in units of love, which means you may find you are rich beyond your wildest dreams” – although terribly cheesy, were nevertheless a nice note to end on. It’s a different sentiment, but just as impactful as the longtime unofficial motto of Group Therapy sessions: “life is made of small moments like these.”
And, it wouldn’t be a proper Above & Beyond concert if I couldn’t say that I made new friends at the show, with whom I expect to share many more small moments and little treasures for years to come. ✋