Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

What to expect from Tomorrowland Around the World: from Katy Perry in a hot air balloon to a virtual crowd

The pop star will perform tracks from her new album ‘Smile’

Tomorrowland Around the World will be a visual and audio feast. Photo by Debby Wilmsen
Tomorrowland Around the World will be a visual and audio feast. Photo by Debby Wilmsen

Katy Perry is finally part of the "cool club".

This is how the pregnant pop star described her upcoming appearance in digital dance music festival Tomorrowland Around the World, which will be held online on Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26.

Speaking at an online press conference on Wednesday, July 22, alongside fellow festival headliners David Guetta, Steve Aoki and Dimitri Vegas, the Roar singer expressed her excitement at being part of the event.

"It's very cool and I always want to be cool," she said with a laugh. "But, truly, I thought it was so innovative of a festival to say ‘we're just going to pivot and bring something really technically advanced and difficult. We're going to create something beautiful out of this mess.' I really admire and respect how the festival went and did it.”

So, how did they do it?

With the physical festival – which normally welcomes 400,000 people across back-to-back July weekends in the Belgian town of Boom – cancelled due to the pandemic, a team of 100 digital creatives were tasked with creating a virtual spectacle worthy of the original event.

Judging by the official trailer released earlier this month, fans at home or tuning in from a screening at Dubai Festival City Arena are in for a treat. There will be up to eight evocative concert stages created in various landscapes, ranging from Mars-like red mountains to lush forests.

Artists taking part have already pre-recorded their performances on green screen studios in Belgium, the US and Australia, with the footage then superimposed on to the virtual festival stages.

DJs had to be extra creative

Such a format is not only a leap of faith for organisers, who hope millions of fans tune into the event, but also for the artists themselves who had to muster the energy of a live performances without an audience.

For an exuberant showman like Aoki, who normally ends his shows by throwing cakes into the audience, a gig devoid of fans and baked goods took some adjustment.

“I remember being in that green room and just imagining all the people out there,” he recalled. “When I think about doing this festival, in comparison to all the others things that I have done, it is absolutely insane.”

The cutting-edge nature of the project was brought home to Vegas when preparing for his set, alongside brother Like Mike.

With a packed virtual crowd also created as part of the festival, Vegas explained the duo’s trademark interactive performance style has been maintained in the online space. The only difference now is that it's actually scripted.

“This means that when it comes to crowd control, we can take it to the next level,” he says. “There are going to be lots of interesting moments in the show.”

Perry’s colourful set

While most of those surprises will be unveiled across the weekend, organisers have revealed a 30-second snippet of some of the performances ahead of the festival's launch.

Fans should expect Perry to arrive in a hot air balloon before performing on a neon-lit circular stage. The visual presentation of the performance is basically an extension of Perry’s colourful music video for her latest single Smile, which also happens to be the name of her upcoming sixth album, out on Friday, August 14.

Sporting fiery orange hair, Perry wears a bright polka-dot blouse similar to that in the video. She is backed by a four-piece band wearing blue suits, their faces obscured by Mad Hatter-esque headpieces.

When it comes to her song selection, Perry’s material will cater to both dedicated fans and dance music aficionados.

“I think it's really important to know your audience and I definitely made a set list based on that,” she said. “There is going to be my new song Smile and a little bit of my other new song Daisies, which [Dutch DJ] Oliver Heldens did a remix of that I love.”

A break from the grind

Another factor compounding the surreal nature of the event is that with all performances pre-recorded, this will be the first time any Tomorrowland act can watch their set 'live' from the crowd.

Vegas said he will host his own Tomorrowland party with family and friends in his home in Belgium, which happens to be only a 30-minute drive from the event’s physical site.

“I'm putting up a gigantic screen in my backyard,” he said.

David Guetta performs on stage during the MTV EMA's 2018 at Bilbao Exhibition Centre on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Bilbao, Spain. (Stuart C. Wilson, pool photo via AP)
David Guetta will perform a set at the virtual Tomorrowland festival. AP

As for Guetta, he is happy to stream the show while sailing across the Mediterranean. He said the pandemic gave him and many veteran DJs their first summer vacation in decades.

“I'm not going to lie. I'm enjoying my very first summer holiday in my entire life since I was 17,” he said. “I understand the frustration of many people right now. This experience made me understand how lucky we are to have money on the side and that we can wait until we go to work next year.”

Tickets for Tomorrowland Around the World, held on Saturday and Sunday, July 25 and 26, cost from €12.50 (Dh52) for a day pass, or €20 (Dh83) for weekend passes, including a week of video-on-demand content.

The festival runs each day from 5pm UAE time to 3am. For details go to www.tomorrowland.com

Updated: July 24, 2020 03:23 PM

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