When asked if you want to go to Above & Beyond, the answer is always and unequivocally yes. Regardless of the time or place, when A&B is in town, you go. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen them more than a few times, including when they were here back in March during WMC for their Anjunabeats showcase at Mana Wynwood.
Jono and Paavo returned to Miami on Friday to take Story by storm while the worst hurricane in recorded history loomed off the coast of Mexico. That didn’t stop people from as far south as the Keys and as far north as Jupiter from trekking to the South Beach ultra club and packing it to capacity. The attitudes that normally accompany the VIP-centric Story were seemingly absent, save for the bouncers; but they get paid to have them. I think that speaks to the type of music A&B puts out. Everyone was just there for some good music and a good time.
Few transcendental experiences compare to being in a room full of people screaming along while your favorite band, rapper, DJ, whatever does their thing on stage. Everyone was more than happy to pick up where A&B left off when they’d intentionally cut out on tracks like “Sticky Fingers” and “Blue Sky Action” to let the crowd sing the chorus, the latter being their infamous “push the button” track. About halfway through, they’ll phase it out, invite a fan from the audience on stage and let them for one small moment get to experience the thrill that these guys get to for a living when they build the crowd up, let it linger then push the button to bring the song back in and drop the crowd down.
Bottles flowed freely while sparklers guided them like an airport’s ground control to their destination. An acrobat twirled from a ring suspended from the ceiling and go go dancers clad in booty shorts and fishnets danced on platforms. Lasers diffracted off the handful of disco balls and the club lit up like a Christmas tree. The high point of the night came when they played their newest single, which features Gemma Hayes and left me wondering why it took them so long to get together. Given A&B’s Midas touch and how well their instrumentals have lent themselves to other talented vocalists in Zoe Johnston, Alex Vargas and Richard Bedford, “Counting Down The Days” is no exception to the long list of quality collaborations.
Set at the usual 128 BPM, the song is a continuation of their timeless style and stays true to the Anjuna sound. There’s no big room bounce, no festival drop, no fat synthesizers or other gimmicks – just a nice, uplifting trance tune with driving percussion, beautiful piano melodies and world class vocals. Is it a little sappy? Sure. Emo? Undeniably, but I think most of us have been in a relationship and can relate one way or another. Aside from being aurally pleasing, it’s that connection and speaking to the human experience that takes a song to the next level.
They played a handful of tracks from We Are All We Need and their landmark album Group Therapy. I’d call it a masterpiece, but that title goes to Acoustic. Those arrangements and how well everything came together on them, from the live strings to the guy sweeping a broom to achieve a certain sound effect, is nothing short of genius – but those compositions don’t lend themselves too well to the nightclub setting (side note: if you missed the extremely limited live performances the first time around, you have another chance in 2016). “Sun and Moon” and “Thing Called Love”? That’s more like it.
They played a solid two and a half hour set and just as soon as it started, it was over. Jono and Paavo provided all in attendance with a little group therapy, which is probably less expensive, more effective and definitely more fun than a visit with the shrink.
That’s what they do in their music and why the answer, whenever Above & Beyond is in town to “are we going?” is always yes.
They’re currently on tour and if you can’t make it to one of their shows, you can always tune into their podcast for your weekly dose of Group Therapy.