Winter EDM Review: Deadmau5 and Madeon

While I have some extra time at home given the current situation with COVID-19, I find myself with some extra time to work on getting this blog started. A part of this is catching up on the recent shows I’ve seen and documenting them in some way. I’ve been wanting to recap the two of these shows for awhile now, as both were outstanding in their own ways. These were two artists’ shows I’ve been meaning to get to for quite some time – as both were actually two of my earliest idols in the EDM scene. In other words, it was really their music that formed my early love of the genre.

The first was Madeon in December. House of Blues, Boston – a cool Tuesday night outside Fenway. Madeon’s body of work is one I’ve been into for quite some time. In fact, it might have been my first introduction to EDM when my longtime friend and neighbor, Jesse, was fresh off a Camp Bisco survival story and was telling me all I needed to know about the EDM scene. He first showed me some of Madeon’s early stuff, “Pop Culture” and “Icarus” – and I was blown away by the fresh, funky-tech sound the young Frenchman had put together. What has happened since then is a full evolution into a EDM superstar: a technically skilled, imaginative and colorful DJ who appeals to longtime EDM heads and newcomers alike.

This show paid homage to both his older work and most recent album, Miracle. First off, the lighting and set design was fantastic – visuals were very reminiscent of Porter’s Worlds Tour I saw many years ago in the same venue, but they were still very unique and provided wonderful, vibrant backdrops to Madeon’s new age tech-funk (or whatever the hell you want to call it). He used a lot of animations that reminded me of Miyazaki, actually. His set up on stage was simple – he had one deck, two keyboards and some percussion, nothing too crazy. But the amount of sound he put together was phenominal.

Miracle really is a masterpiece, in my opinion. I will say, I tend to stray from the more pop-oriented EDM albums many evolving artists have been mass-producing as of late, but this is an exception. Madeon himself said this was his finest creation – the result of many, many years of work and dedication. And it shows. Each song is a wonderfully vibrant and fun joyride through Madeon’s world: clever melodies, use of heavy and light synth textures throughout, well-placed vocal chops (many of which were his own) (like in No Fear No More and Dream Dream Dream). It is a short album, but incredibly satisfying and I think it appeals to a lot of different tastes, whether you are new or familiar to the genre. Madeon has this amazing ability to capture beautify and almost joy in his pieces that make him stand out from most others, in that he really does create his own world with his music. When you are listening to Madeon, it really only sounds like Madeon. Although many have taken from his talents and learned his ways, he is always distinctly that funky Frenchman with the droning intensity of Imperium (this was a surprise cameo in the show) and the party-going fun of Cut the Kid.

He frequently addressed the crowd and expressed his continued thanks for their support, it was very satisfying actually. He was energetic, smiling and upbeat the whole show, and I think you could really tell he built everything just the way he wanted it. It was a man comfortable in his environment, which in most instances makes for a hell of a show. He incorporated some remixes, blends and chops into his Miracle album, transitioning back and forth between some of his more popular works and the new album seamlessly, as if it had all been built out of the same framework. He kept the energy impressively high in the HOB for a Tuesday, which sometimes is an issue with those midweek shows. My balcony view came me a direct line of site to the crowd, stage and visuals, and I loved every minute. His music makes me feel funky, fun, and calmed all at the same time – something I find incredibly appealing when listening to him play. Would definitely go again. Concert Score: 9/10

Deadmau5 (I’ll refer to him here as Joel) is a legend. Love him or hate him, Joel is an absolute superstar, and for very good reason. The man practically invented mainstream progressive house, or rather – was able to bring it into the limelight of EDM culture in a way that put him, at many times in his career, at the forefront of the electronic music scene. His trademark Mouse head he wears during shows is iconic, and his brand is this image. Joel is very much a brand, and I definitely buy into it. It;’s not for everyone, that is for sure, but it certainly hits me in the right way and I have been continuing to come back to his albums time and time again over the years. Again, he was one of the first artists I got into with Madeon when starting my EDM music exploration back in high school. So seeing him here was a real treat.

His “Cube” tour is named as such because he literally sat within a gigantic, rotating cube pointed on its edge directly towards the crowd. The cube was covered with LED screens which coordinated to the music, and he had 10 or so large screens behind him on the stage as well. The visuals were outstanding and kept me moving – plenty of strobes, color, lazers and not any smoke. I hate smoke, honestly. It’s so corny.

One thing I love about Joel is his authenticity. The guy has been called a major dick, and he honestly can be sometimes. Guy has an ego larger than his Mouse head. But honestly, it’s deserved. He crushes everything he touches in the electronic world and otherwise. I think, like Madeon, I love him so much because he creates this incredible atmosphere with his music. Many artists have a great sound, but Joel has a great feel to it as well. His ability to create an emotional connection to his music, even with simple chord progressions and drawn-out buildups over the course of many minutes, he has the ability to make each song seem like a journey in itself. Almost like each tune transports you to some far away world in which you are suddenly the star of the movie, because these tracks create a whole plot in your head when you listen to them. His work is never too complex, but like an Italian mother’s cooking, Deadmau5 takes high quality ingredients, hand selected with upmost precision, and makes something beautifully simple yet wonderful with it. Every sample he chooses is incredible deliberate, and he enhances each note to the point where it couldn;’t have been produced any better – everything just works so well together in his songs. It’s like an Abelton orchestra, and he’s the conductor. He creates an incredible amount of intensity and tension with his music that hooks you like a good thriller – making you wait with bated breath for each oncoming progression, chord change and chorus. He’s not complicating things, and he honestly hasn’t changed his formula much since 2009, but it works. It works really damn well.

Take Strobe, for example, a classic of his (and maybe the best part of the show). This is a very etherial song, in that it uses long chord progressions and buildup to generate tension and a feeling of emotion that somehow touches your heartstrings in more ways than one. Two-thirds of the way through the song the synths come in and it really takes the whole thing home for me. It’s honestly an iconic piece of music. Or maybe a more recent piece, Saved, which is 8 minutes of what I would describe as calming adrenaline. While Ghosts n’ Stuff is one of his more famous pieces, he is also known for sure classics as Faxing Berlin, Raise Your Weapon, Some Chords, Sofi Needs a Ladder, and Avararita. I Remember and Beneath with Me are two pieces he did with Kaskade that are truly exceptional and emotionally charged, make sure to check them both out when you can. If you like Deadmau5 but can be turned off by his darker tones at times, Kaskade is much more mellow and vibey, in my opinion. Not better, just different.

The show itself was packed, and on a Friday no less (what could be better). The atmosphere was electric, Joel was jiving and pumping out new and old tracks, appealing to the young and old of the crowd – although you could tell the crowd was full of a bit older, more experienced EDM heads who have likely been following him for quite some time (that just seemed to be the vibe I got, still youthful, just slightly older than your average EDM show). Visuals were wild, he had me dancing the whole time, and everyone was happy. The man can move a crowd and get people INTO IT, and it really impressed me. When you’re in that environment, you are committed. And you want to commit, because other wise you’re missing something special. Deadmau5 creates special music. It’s simplicity paired with intricacy and deliberation, and it works. Concert Review: 8.5/10

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