MDNA superstar makes first UMF appearance as Swedish house producer cements status as an EDM standout with headlining gig.
By Akshay Bhansali
MIAMI — Swedish house music producer Avicii is currently one of the most popular artists working in music — yes, in music, not just his native EDM. And that star standing was only reinforced on Saturday night when he headlined a gig on day two of this year’s Ultra Music Festival.
Avicii (born Tim Bergling) packed in every hit he could into his closing set on Ultra’s Main Stage. “Fade into Darkness” had tens of thousands of Miami fans chanting back the song’s catchy hook, as did his “Silhouettes” and Mark Knight’s remix of Florence and the Machine’s “You’ve Got the Love.”
Every hand was stretched sky-high in a version of air piano when the DJ/producer’s now-familiar chord progressions on the anthemic “Levels” filled the stage; they stayed up for his collabo with rising star Nicky Romero, “NicTim.” Plus, the main-stage set looked as good as it sounded thanks to the work of visual designer Vello Virkhaus. Fireworks and sublime, smoky lighting textures added to the ambience.
But to really understand just how big of a deal Avicii’s show was we have to take you back to the top of his set. As fans pushed closer to the stage — with virtually every square foot at UMF occupied, some resorted to climbing up into trees for a view — the set went dark and a taped segment featuring will.i.am, David Guetta, Afrojack, Carl Cox and Avicii came on. Each artist remarked on how popular dance music has become as Madonna’s “Music” played in the background; the clip appeared to be an excerpt from the brand-new UMF film “Can You Feel It?”
Toward the end of the segment, Avicii praised Madonna for using EDM beats in her past work. It then cut to Madge extolling the power of live music. Just as it began to occur to the crowd that Madonna might actually be at Ultra, there she was, striding to the front of the stage.
“Hello, everybody, I’ve finally made it to Ultra Music Festival,” she said. “I’ve been here in spirit for many years, but it’s good to be here, finally. In my world, music and dance are not separate,” she continued. “Electronic music has been a part of my career since I started, and I can honestly say, ‘A DJ saved my life.’
“How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” she then asked with a coy smile, making a reference to the drug MDMA, which not only had the crowd roaring back at the nod to rave culture, but also happens to be a thinly veiled wink at her new MDNA album title. “Are you ready to dance? Are you ready to sweat? Are you ready to make some noise, mother—-ers?! This next DJ is amazing! Get ready for Avicii!”
With that, the lights came up on Avicii at the decks. Madonna then glided into the DJ booth to rock out with Bergling to her latest single, “Girl Gone Wild.” She stayed for the duration of the song, smiling, singing along and laughing with Avicii.
Of course, Madonna has always been a friend of EDM. After success working with the likes of William Orbit, Paul Oakenfold and Stuart Price (a.k.a. Jacques Lu Cont), she paid homage again to the club culture she loves over the weekend. (She even teamed up again with Orbit on MDNA, due out on Monday.) Two things were crystal at the conclusion of Saturday night’s festivities: EDM fans are ecstatic Madonna has come full circle in her career, and considering the pop queen’s co-sign, Avicii’s star has never been brighter.
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