The last time a dedicated electronic act headlined Madison Square Garden was nearly three years ago, when Porter Robinson brought his live show to The Garden on November 18, 2016. By that token, MSG has proven to hold a very high standard for electronic artists looking to grace the world’s most famous arena when stopping in New York on tour. When touring in New York, the biggest electronic acts in the world are accustomed to being relegated to venues like Brooklyn Mirage, Terminal 5, and very occasionally, Barclays Center — so ILLENIUM had a lot to live up to.
Despite being a huge electronic music fan and a big fan of ILLENIUM, I went into Saturday night’s show skeptical of how ILLENIUM would translate a show to somewhere as iconic as Madison Square Garden. I left in awe of the entire performance, with even more respect for ILLENIUM’s music and live show than I came with.
Sporting a live band to supplement his expansive and anthemic songs, he played guitar throughout his 90-minute set while he enlisted band members and even his concert openers to play drums, bass, rhythm guitar, and keys.
Opener Dabin was also a surprisingly familiar face all night, being on stage for three sets after opening the concert with his own, a second joint set with Said The Sky (who is also his roommate), and finally playing backup guitar during ILLENIUM’s set. Said The Sky also chipped in on keys and Ableton Live after performing the aforementioned second opening set. ILLENIUM further surprised fans by bringing singer-songwriter Annika Wells on stage to play keyboard and sing female vocals on a number of songs, including their 2017 award-winning collaboration “Crawl Outta Love.”
Seeing all of the openers and surprise guests truly made the concert feel like it was, from its outset, thoughtfully constructed of artists who would contribute all night to the experience, which added an unexpected level of cohesiveness to the show that is rare among any concert lineup, let alone a night of EDM.
More than just a fun and collaborative evening, ILLENIUM’s set was wildly entertaining for the entire 90 minutes. His blend of pop accessibility with credible and anthemic EDM tunes allowed fans to sing along all night, rather than just sweating it out on a dance floor. ILLENIUM has found a singular sound that makes his music stand out among a lot of homogeneity in the electronic scene. He played songs from his latest album, ASCEND, his trendsetting album Awake, and multiple collaborations in between.
To put the icing on the cake, the visual and physical show production made for an immersive spectacle befitting of The Garden. With world-class graphics, an outrageous laser show, massive pyrotechnics and confetti cannons, fans were on their toes wondering what they’d see next, and very frequently got their fill.
With an open stage setup, ILLENIUM and his band were in full view of the crowd at all times in front of the enormous hanging LED screen that created the canvas upon which the visuals were displayed, keeping fans engaged and stimulated as well.
Since seeing the show this past Saturday, I’ve been raving about it to anyone who will listen; it may be the only electronic show fitting of MSG, and should be considered a must-see show for any fan of electronic wherever ILLENIUM’s ASCEND Tour will route through. This show’s worth every penny, worthy of traveling for, and something that sets a new standard for stadium EDM acts.