While David Guetta's Yas Arena performance wasn't high on technical skills, he compensated for it with sheer enthusiasm and a sweet musical ear.
David Guetta wows the crowd at Yas Arena
It really does look like the best job in the world: a superstar DJ standing behind a deck three storeys high and thousands of his glow-stick-waving fans dancing below.
What do you do? Well you take it all in, bask in it, of course.
That is what the French house DJ David Guetta did repeatedly throughout his two-hour set at Yas Arena on Friday night. Still, there were variations to this routine.
In one, Guetta would close his eyes and stretch out his arms as if in anticipation of a mass hug. In another, he was so enamoured with his own production that he would break out into fits of air piano with his eyes shut. In fact, one wondered how many times Guetta had his eyes open during the set.
Well, there was the moment during When Love Takes Over when he was so excited by the thumping beat that he took off his leather jacket and threw it to the floor. However, immediately realising this fashion faux pas, he picked it up and placed it carefully under his deck after brushing it off. The man may be an international superstar, but he is a stylish Frenchman first and foremost.
For anyone convinced that Madonna’s forthcoming performance will result in Yas Arena’s biggest-ever concert gathering, there’s no question that Guetta’s sold-out performance can easily come in as a close second.
The crowd was heaving in anticipation of Guetta’s arrival and the energy didn’t let up as he spun a slamming two-hour set, mixing house, modern pop and his own productions.
While Guetta’s performance is not high on technical skills, he compensates for it with his sheer enthusiasm on stage, coupled with his sweet musical ear. Some DJs view their stubbornly underground productions as a badge of honour. Guetta, however, has steadily been opening his sound for the masses for nearly a decade.
While this may have resulted in a backlash from dance purists, the pay-off is a new generation of music fans connecting with a genre they once found alien or, worse, merely white noise.
Guetta displayed the fusion a few times during the set. One was his latest remix of Coldplay’s Paradise. While the British group’s Mylo Xyloto – spawning Paradise – may have been solid, it failed somewhat in their promise that it would be their most dance-orientated release.
Guetta’s version seemed to be closer to what Coldplay may have intended; he paired Chris Martin’s falsetto chorus with a sturdier beat and sweeping synths. The crowd lapped it up immediately with a singalong the UK group would have been proud of. Guetta also lent his mixing talents to Gotye’s Somebody that I Used to Know, turning the song’s original tetchy vibe into something more euphoric; even Kimbra’s slinky guest verse in the original came off as positively benign. Guetta then paid homage to his peers, with tracks such as the Chemical Brothers’ Block Rockin’ Beats and Hello by Martin Solveig given an airing.
However, the most crowd-pleasing numbers were his own original compositions.
There is a benefit to Guetta’s chewy dance-pop sounds in that they make his deft mixing easier to follow. While Armin van Buuren and Tiesto’s melding of tracks may seem random except to hard-core dance heads, Guetta’s earworm tunes act as an introductory mixing class to the uninitiated.
In some cases, such as in Sexy Chick, Guetta would use the song almost as a musical coda throughout the set; allowing its chorus to act as a bridge to the next track as well as maintaining the crowd’s anticipation for its arrival. When Sexy Chick eventually dropped, it was in a more stripped-down format; the beats were tribal, the synths more heated. You sensed this could have been the song’s original incarnation before it received its glossy pop makeover.
Such instances make Guetta’s performance more than a simple exercise in knob twiddling. The Guetta experience can be shared by all, from those wanting simply to dance to the musically curious.
But don’t expect Guetta to acknowledge all of it. He is too busy closing his eyes, taking it all in.
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