From the moment I arrived, I could feel the palpable excitement amongst the 60,000 people at what was billed as Swedish House Mafia’s last-ever UK show. While, of course, the Swedish trio were the main attraction, they also outdid themselves in forming a stunning supporting bill, this included newer talent like Madeon alongside veterans like Pete Tong.
Madeon’s set was the first real highlight of the day. One of electronic music’s biggest success stories of 2012 so far; the nineteen-year-old Frenchman treated the Bowl to a set of electro brilliance. He deftly demonstrated his DJing chops between his own tracks like ‘Icarus’ and upcoming single ‘Finale’ as well as tracks from the likes of Zedd, Wolfgang Gartner and Dada Life. He did well to recover from his sound cutting out as a result of a technical glitch, and surely earned himself a couple of thousand new fans over the course of the hour.
Next up was Alesso, a young Swedish producer who has recently become a protégé of sorts to SHM’s Sebastian Ingrosso. While Madeon warmed the crowd up with buzzing electro, Alesso was the first of the day’s DJs to bring out the big progressive house guns, most notably in the form of his remixes of David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’ and Keane’s ‘Silenced by the Night’. He also had a great onstage energy and seemed to be having the time of his life commanding the thousands in front of him. Almost predictably the highlight of his set was ‘Calling’, his 2011 collaboration with Ingrosso, which got the crowd dancing, singing, and raring for more.
Arguably the most mainstream artist on the bill, Calvin Harris, took to the stage next. His set mostly comprised of his own productions and collaborations which gave more of a pop music feel than Alesso or Madeon. Despite this, Harris also included a few tracks with a more aggressive edge, like Hardwell’s ‘Spaceman’ and Nicky Romero’s ‘Generation 303’, which acted as a great contrast to ‘Bounce’ and ‘Feel So Close’. Unfortunately his inclusion of Avicii’s ‘Levels’ seemed a tad lazy, as it has without question become overplayed, and it felt like the time could have been better occupied with a slightly more original choice. However, as the headliners’ time slot approached, it seemed nothing could dampen the spirits of this crowd and the singalong of ‘We Found Love’ threatened to blow the stage right over.
Sub-headlining the Swedes was Pete Tong, who is undoubtedly one of the most significant DJs in the popularisation of house and dance music in the UK. Tong’s shows on BBC Radio 1 have become notorious for providing British ears with the latest and hottest in dance music for over twenty years and it is this legacy that has afforded him such a slot on the lineup. While the set itself wasn’t bad, it felt somewhat out of place – the rest of the bill had spent the last four hours pumping up Milton Keynes with huge progressive and electro house; Pete Tong seemed to now be doing the opposite by playing a set of techno and deep house. Perhaps it was intentional in order to give the crowd a much-needed break from the afternoon’s relentless dancing but there was a noticeable lull in crowd participation and interest.
A lot has been said recently about so-called ‘superstar DJs’, and, as one of the biggest dance groups in the world at the moment, Swedish House Mafia have in no way been immune to criticism. A controversial blog post by producer Deadmau5, accused DJs like SHM and David Guetta of simply ‘pushing play’. This coupled with a video online, which supposedly showed SHM’s Steve Angello playing along to a pre-recorded mix, have meant that the Swedish trio have come under fire from several directions in recent months. The jury is still out on the miming claims and the debate on SHM’s place as DJs continues. What can be said, however, is that going to see SHM for top-notch DJing would be like going to a pantomime expecting Shakespearian acting talent – it’d be missing the point entirely. What they do deliver on, in a big way, is an incredible stage show and energy by the bucketload. With a stage set-up almost entirely built of video screens, the Mafia treated Milton Keynes to two hours of wall-to-wall bangers both expected and unexpected. Opening with a tension-building intro to recent single ‘Greyhound’; the Swedes maintained the pace throughout with ‘Antidote’, ‘In My Mind’, ‘Atom’, and countless other tunes. They also offered a generous helping of fireworks, flamethrowers, confetti, streamers, strobe lights, and one of the most spectacular laser shows this side of Ibiza.
One of the most notable moments was the live debut of their as-yet-unreleased new single, ‘Don’t You Worry Child’, which is a pumping progressive house track featuring uplifting synths and almost nostalgic-sounding lyrics. It is sure to be hitting the clubs and the charts hard when it’s released at the end of July. The show climaxed with the absolutely incendiary closer ‘Save the World’, with the singalong chorus of ‘we’re gonna make it, you and I/we’re gonna save the world tonight’ being made even more poignant by the fact that this is SHM’s farewell tour and supposedly last-ever UK show. Say what you will about Swedish House Mafia as artists; they are clearly performers who appreciate the power of live music, and at Milton Keynes they undoubtedly fulfilled their farewell tour slogan of ‘we came, we raved, we loved’.
…Will has been listening to: Zedd feat. Matthew Koma – Spectrum…