On Friday night, Madeon kicked off his Adventure Tour with a highly-anticipated show at the Warfield in San Francisco, with SF natives The M Machine joining him as openers. In fact, there was so much pre-show buzz that the venue was moved from the Regency Ballroom to the Warfield in order to meet demand, according to the promoters. It was an interesting change, as the two venues are very different spaces, but in the end a welcome one, as the tiered, theater-style seating allowed much of the audience a great view of the show.
The M Machine: Hometown Heroes, Hampered as Openers
The M Machine took the stage a few minutes before 9 PM. During their hour-long set, the duo (until recently, a trio) played their best songs from their Just Like EP, including “Just Like,” “Don’t Speak,” and “Pluck Pluck,” plus some of their classic material from Metropolis parts I & II. Most of these got the remix treatment, though they did play the lush and funky “Immigrants” in its full, original glory. Among the non-M Machine tracks they played was Valentino Khan‘s “Deep Down Low.”
I had been excited to catch the guys at a rare hometown show, albeit as openers. When I saw them play at Ruby Skye on the 4th of July of last year, the audience had been sparse but passionate, freeing them to play a weird and impressively hard-hitting set. That same atmosphere did not carry over to the proscenium stage of the Warfield, unfortunately. While a certain portion of the crowd was definitely into it — even chanting “M Machine! M Machine!” at one point — the majority of people bobbed along to Eric and Swardy‘s unique brand of house music half-heartedly while waiting for Madeon to come on. Swardy seemed to acknowledge the lackluster reception at the end of the set, saying, “I know it’s early…” in a way that seemed to be part admonishment, part apology.
Madeon: His Own Secret Weapon
After a brief break to clear The M Machine’s gear, Madeon took to the stage in a leather jacket, unleashing his massive energy
on the audience to the sounds of “You’re On” (feat. Kyan). He’s a tiny guy (and still not even drinking age!) which makes his incredible stage presence and clear enthusiasm all the more striking. Part of a DJ’s job is to lead the audience in energy, and even with a light show as elaborate as Madeon’s, if the DJ isn’t into it, the audience won’t be either. But from the second Madeon, a.k.a. Hugo Leclercq, strode on stage, it was clear that he was there with us and for us, just as excited for his tour’s debut as we were. Just moments into the show he was taking power stances, throwing his arms up into the air, leading the audience in rounds of clapping, and even throwing his arms out to the side in classic Armin van Buuren style. His intensity was on the level of the greatest of live DJs like Seven Lions and Skrillex, and like Skrillex inside his mothership, Madeon served as the beating human heart of the epic stage rig, from which all the energy in the room ultimately flowed.
Touring Under the Influence (of Daft Punk and Porter Robinson)
For the tour, which supports his brand new, #1 album, Adventure, Madeon has built a stage rig to rival the most famous setups of EDM stars like Feed Me and Sub Focus. The stage itself, all angles with diamond structure surrounding the DJ, seems to invoke Daft Punk‘s unparalleled Alive 2007 rig. In fact, it’s clear that Daft Punk is this fellow French producer’s biggest artistic influence, from his funky electro-house sound, to the live triggering that makes up the backbone of his show. There was a moment where I was sure he was going to drop “Robot Rock,” and, as the video below makes clear, some of the lighting effects on his rig seemed to be a direct homage to the androids’ Alive tour (compare to footage of Daft Punk’s live “Television Rules the Nation/Crescendolls” mashup).
The rig also strongly resembles Porter Robinson‘s Worlds setup (another influence and a close friend of Madeon’s). The main difference here is that Worlds is an artistic statement in which Porter strives to distance himself from his electro-house past, while Madeon fully embraces his sonic origins with the Adventure Tour, bringing you a stunning spectacle that is ultimately all about dance music.
A Stage Show for the Ages
The stage rig included what seemed to be a couple of laptops, three midi controllers (including the Novation Launchpad that helped launched his fame with his “Pop Culture” Youtube video), a keyboard, and a microphone. Madeon performs with the midi controllers tipped towards the audience, which is an awesome touch. It of course helps show off the undeniable technical ability that sets him apart from “button pusher” DJs, but I also like that it celebrates the small, beautiful wonder of midi controllers themselves: you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on building fancy stage setups, but at the end of the day, most of what’s coming out of the speakers is reproducible on that one tiny, light-up device.
Welcome to the Madeon Show
The song selection was almost all Madeo and included plenty of live exclusives. One of the age-old criticisms of DJs is that, unlike instrumentalists, they’re not creating anything onstage – just reproducing things. Madeon knocks down that criticism handily, crafting one-off remixes of his tracks using his midi controllers as a canvas. He went most wild with “Technicolor,” leaving aside the melody of the recorded version to improvise the lead onstage.
Song selections included “You’re On,” “Cut the Kid,” “Imperium,” “The City,” “Raise Your Weapon,” “Pay No Mind,” and “Finale.” (I was secretly hoping to hear him drop some Lady Gaga, whose recent album ARTPOP he contributed to but alas, it was not so.) The audience cheered loudly when he dropped “Pop Culture” itself in a deftly reproduced live mashup.
One of the best surprises of the night was when he brought the energy down low, turned to the keyboard, and started to sing over the smooth tones of a Rhodes to “Home.” It was a special moment, even if I couldn’t make out the lyrics due to a buzzing crowd.
A Show for the Ages
Madeon brought his A-game for the first night of the Adventure Tour, and I’m confident that his passion will continue to make this show come alive for all audiences over the coming months. It had everything you want in a live show: great music, spectacular visuals, high energy, and an excited crowd, plus live creations and exclusives. The tickets for this show got pricey ($52 for the most expensive seats), but if you can scrounge up the cash, I highly, highly recommend going for the experience. You will not regret it.
Below is the Snapchat story I took during the night, including The M Machine’s and Madeon’s performances. If you want to catch these stories as they happen, follow me on Snapchat at theedmist.