Parov Stelar has been on top of my “must see” list for a while, so I didn’t hesitate to buy tickets when I found that he would be playing nearby. It turned out that this was a good idea since the concert was sold out.
I didn’t really know what to expect at first. I had assumed something like a typical electronic live act with a bit of added live improvisation. I was wrong in this – but it was a lot better than what I had expected.
When the musicians entered the stage, you couldn’t tell that this was something you would normally categorize as electronic music. They had a drummer, a bass guitar player, a saxophonist, a trumpet player, a female singer – and the master himself on his laptop.
With the first few tunes, they had the crowd completely on their side. Their big advantage was that the musicians were partying with the crowd: You could really tell that everybody on stage enjoyed being there and playing their music.
In contrast to most of Parov Stelar’s recordings, the focus in the live performance was much more on improvisation and the instruments instead of the beats and loops. While you could easily recognize every single track, they added a lot of things that were not there in the recordings. For example, in “Catgroove” the singer added a vocal part that doesn’t exist in the recording but that fit in nicely.
Lots of live improvisation left no doubt that those players were masters on their instruments. Not only did they improve the tracks in brilliant ways – they also made it look totally natural by jumping around, dancing and playing little tricks on each other.
In contrast to the recordings, the tracks were played more like songs with distinct beginnings and endings and without the usual DJ-friendly intros and outros.
I was also interesting to observe the role of Parov Stelar himself: He was standing behind his laptop at the back of the stage all the time, pushing buttons and partying along. However, you could tell that he wanted the musicians to stand in the spotlight instead of himself. This is not just a good idea since it’s much more interesting to watch a trumpet player or a vocalist perform that to look at someone pressing buttons on a laptop. To me, this looked like he saw himself as the guy who brought those brilliant musicians together and made them create wonderful music together – instead of presenting himself as the genius.
When I left the venue, I left with a smile. This was truly a great concert, and it showed me that Electro Swing is far more than a hype. This music has got a lot of substance, it makes people smile and dance and it is much more intelligent than most current dance music. Could this become a new stadium sound? I certainly hope so.