Swedish House Mafia – Living in Birmingham
SwedenDish House Mafia – Live In Birmingham – October 2022 – Review by EJ Scanlan
One day in the summer of 2010, I was living my little life before going to high school. I was listening to my bop of the moment: NOW that’s what I call music 76and while I was innocently listening to disc two on my mother’s stereo, I heard a song called a your name) by a small musical trio called Swedish House Mafia, with the track featuring musical prodigy that is Pharrell Williams. It was the best song I had ever heard when I was 11, and for 12 years Swedish House Mafia has been on my playlists constantly. I rave about them, and I used to rave about their music in my bedroom (I apologize profusely to my mother for nearly tearing a hole in our dining room ceiling in doing it!).
Consisting of Axwell, Steve Angello and Sabastian Ingrosso, each has produced several iconic tracks that have taken over dancefloors around the world. Collectively, they are typhoons of the electronic dance music scene, and they have been at the top of my artist list for many years. Tonight they wrap up the UK leg of their tour at Birmingham’s Utilita Arena (which was most likely their last show in the UK), and it’s fair to say I’m pretty excited. I wasn’t a fan of their 2022 comeback album, Heaven again as I felt the vibe they were looking for fall flat on her face, which is my main concern heading into tonight’s show. That said, I expect them to be big on staging, lighting, pyro and everything else. I know they can bring the vibe, but can they make it last for a 90 minute set? We will see…
There’s so much to say here, and the first thing to mention is that the set design was insane. The DJ decks where Axwell, Angello and Ingrosso were located were at the very heart of the stage, immersed in smoke effects on the floor and all around. This smoke, a constant throughout the show, made the atmosphere even more special, as if the audience was about to literally escape reality for a few hours, and even connoted the supergroup as gods, in which they are… from the electronic scene. at least. Above the trio was a circle that resembled the cover of the band’s recent album, Heaven again, which was a great decorative touch for the stage, but there was also a circular lighting beam, which was the real highlight of the show, not only did it work on its own, but it also collaborated with the circular structure to produce some of the insane lighting effects I’ve never seen before, plus some of the most effective strobe effects I’ve ever seen at a live show. Both rigs moved throughout the performance depending on the track and type of music being played (e.g. dark house, EDM, slower sounding electronics, etc.), which made the scene even stronger in execution. The lighting system in the crowd worked wonderfully to make the crowd feel immersed in the show (especially the standing section, filled with ravers, some of whom were probably on ketamine for the duration of the show) while not not being entertaining at all. from the main stage, moreover for Red light in which there was literally a red laser light taking up about half of the arena.
Another thing about the staging that really surprised me was that there was no projection or screens during the show, it was just lights and pyro, and I think that it was a brave choice and one that I fully endorse. I’ve never been a big fan of projections or screens in shows because I think they can take you out of the show and add more distraction than anything, and I more than expected let them be used tonight, but I was wrong. And the end result was…brilliant. The stage setup, lights and everything else worked incredibly well on their own, and adding the use of projections would have been over-stimulating and would have reduced the effect of the rest of the lighting as well as the set.
I was only planning to briefly touch on pyrotechnics, but because there was so much of it, I have to take a whole section to cover it. I have a pure hatred for pyro as I am autistic and very nervous and can be triggered by them but I know that if used correctly pyro can be a wow effect to have at an event in live, and my God if anyone could use pyrotechnics well, it’s the Swedish House Mafia. Pyro was used for about half of the 30-track setlist, and nearly every single one was used phenomenally. The only time I don’t think this is the case is during the last 30 seconds of Frankenstein in which, in addition to the fire effects present on stage, there was also a very strong and sudden pyro that took over the stage a lot when the flames worked perfectly on their own for this particular track, but with the atmosphere of the track, a hip-hop song infused with dark electronica with the voice of American rapper A$AP Rocky, I couldn’t disagree. But what was really impressive was their use of fire and mine effects (indoor fireworks) that were set off horizontally from the sides of the stage which added even more wow factor to the whole thing sensational Swedish House Mafia, as well as scaled indoor fireworks for their finale of don’t worry child.
Moving on to the performance of the trio itself, and as a first for me, I had to look at the mixing ability instead of the vocals, and they killed it. Every transition sounded smooth and was completely perfect, but their stage presence wasn’t quite there like it would be for other artists, but on this occasion, I’m not going to take any points for that because the DJs don’t aren’t the type to do backflips on stage and have a personal connection with the crowd, they let the music do the talking, and that’s exactly what they did tonight. They performed with such passion, speaking to the public on occasion too, and you can tell their hearts were in it.
Finally, let’s get to the setlist, and oh boy, that was a plug. 37 songs were mixed into 30 tracks, and the show had it all. From the best of the trio’s new album, like don’t go crazy to include vocal snippets of popular songs such as The Temper Trap’s Sweet Disposition mixed in with their most famous songs. I couldn’t even sit down to rest and write my notes because they were playing banger after banger after banger! But the real highlight for me was when they were performing songs from the Until Now (2012) era, which was when I was at the peak of listening to the trio, and they played three of my favorite songs from them, Reload, leave the world behind and In my mind back to back. I got very emotional watching this, as someone who’s played these songs on repeat for the past ten years, who put them in their radio DJ sets at the age of 14, and as someone who , at the time of his life, when Until now came out was going through hell and back, hearing these songs in itself really touched me, and it made me very emotional, I even shed a tear or two.
Overall, the Swedish House Mafia was successful. They provided groundbreaking special effects, curated a perfect setlist, performed with such heart and passion and had the entire Birmingham crowd of 15,000 on hand for the duration. Axwell said in the final moments of the show that tonight could be their last show in the UK, and if it is then they are off to a great start. At a time when dance music is more important than ever in this country, with titles like Eliza Rose’s BOTA (the baddest of them all) and LF system Afraid to feel dominating the charts, it was the perfect and most exciting time to see Swedish House Mafia, it’s like they’re handing over to the next generation of DJs and music producers. It was a pleasure to see this show again and a pleasure to travel to see these musical legends perform at their peak, and if this is truly their last show in the UK 15,000 people will be able to say they experienced it and that they killed this.
- Can you feel it?
- It’s getting better
- doggy style
- Miami 2 Ibiza
- 7:30 p.m.
- We come, we rave, we love
- Tell me why
- Lifetime / Show me love
- Call (Lose My Mind) / Smalltown Boy
- more than you know
- Teasing Mr. Charlie
- Red light
- Dream Bigger / Sweat
- a your name)
- don’t go crazy
- For Sale / Jack U
- Rave n’ Roll
- leave the world behind
- Love Inc / On My Mind
- Turn the lights back on
- Moth to a Flame
- Heaven brings you home
- Cemetery/Sweet Disposition
- Don’t worry child / For you / Save the world
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