I saw Skrillex live in Cologne last Saturday, and I have to say that this was probably one of the best electronic music concerts I have seen.
I know that his music is not everbody’s taste, so I will not talk much about that here. He played his tracks more or less like a DJ set, with only a few differences to the original recordings. This is fine with me as that is what most people would expect from such a concert – and the music alone certainly kicks ass.
However, I thought that there were two things that made this special and different from other electronic live acts:
First of all, he didn’t only play his own tracks. I recognized at least three tracks that were not by him (Knife Party – Fire Hive, Pendulum – Salt In The Wounds, Fatman Scoop – Be Faithful). In my opinion, this made the set a lot more interesting. Playing those tracks was surprising, but they actually fit in quite well and are true bangers themselves. Bands often play cover songs – so why shouldn’t electronic music live acts play other people’s tracks? This sounds obvious, but very few live acts actually do that. Some of the visuals he used were also references to video games and pop culture.
The second thing that made this live act special was his use of visuals. A lot of electronic music artists use visuals nowadays, and many DJs play side by side with a VJ – but what Skrillex did was unusual. His stage setup consisted of several white pillars and a projection screen in the middle. There were pretty impressive projections on those pillars, and it was perfectly synced to the music – but as impressive as this is, I have seen similar things before. However, what I really found jaw-dropping were the projections on the middle screen: What you could see here were various strange figures – monsters, robots and aliens – that moved in exactly the same way as Skrillex himself.
Here is a video of what this looks like:
Apart from the fact that this looked really awesome, I also think that this is a brilliant idea that solves a lot of the problems that many electronic live acts have: As their music is mostly created on computers and synthesizers, there isn’t much to see when an electronic music artist performs live. In some cases, it’s just one guy pushing buttons on a laptop – not very spectacular to watch. Some live acts add stage musicians or dancers to make the show a bit more interesting. However, in a big concert hall, it’s often hard to see what is happening on stage. Skrillex’s giant monsters solved this: You could see them perfectly from every point in the room, and they were not just pre-recorded visuals, but actually reflected what he was doing on stage.
The technology that makes this possible is not entirely new. Motion tracking has been used in movies for quite a few years now, and video game consoles such as the Kinect or the Wii have brought this technology to the living rooms. However, I haven’t seen anyone use that for a live act. I am sure that others will imitate soon, but right now this is pretty unique.
Here is a video that shows a behind-the-scenes view of his last tour. It looks like he is wearing sensors (probably accelerometers) to control the animation.
All in all, I have to say that this was one of the best live acts I have seen so far. It’s great to see an artist innovate not just in music, but also in performance.