When the legacy of an artist spans the breadth of more than a generation, commands the reverence of fans the world over and has left a substantial impact on an industry, that artist’s performance is preceded by an almost daunting expectation of some insurmountable experience, of witnessing history as it will be written in years and decades to come. The fulfillment of such expectations subsequently become further testament to their legacy, one that you, the audience, has now shared and taken part in by more than just listening and hearing, but by the feeling of an experience.
To share this experience with over 5,000 other fans describes the feeling of watching Tiësto perform at the Santa Barbara Bowl last Thursday, where he played a two-hour set spanning hits from his 15-year career as arguably history’s most renowned DJ and producer.
The Dutch artist, voted multiple years as the “The World’s No. 1 DJ” stopped at the Santa Barbara Bowl Thursday en route to Los Angeles, where on Saturday night, he concluded the Tiësto Club Life College Invasion Tour at the Home Depot center before an audience of 26,000, the largest DJ headliner in North American history.
Accompanying him on the tour was Porter Robinson, a 19-year-old prodigy from North Carolina who opened the concert just before 7 p.m. with a raucous house remix of Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” (Robinson also performed on Del Playa later that night. See page 9 for a story on his IV show).
As darkness fell upon the Bowl, Robinson continued spinning signature electro-house remixes to a growing frenzy of teeming fans before the stage, who clamored eagerly with each resonating bass drop unleashed upon them. His set, closed by an outro of growling, oscillating synthesizers and dimmed stage lights, gave way nearly immediately to the entrance of the man of the hour. Tiësto took the stage, and the venue erupted in display of flashing strobes, billowing smoke and an announcement.
“WELCOME TO TIESTO’S CLUB LIFE.”
The audience, fully formed by this point, comprised a mixture of surprising demographics. There were the teenagers and twenty-somethings — many of them likely UCSB students — scantily-clad in neon raving attire, facepaint and other frivolous adornments. Masses huddled close to the stage in the drug-induced, trance-fueled riotous fervor deemed necessary by the circumstances.
The stands harbored a somewhat older though hardly more reserved crowd. Even those in tucked-in shirts and glasses, while clearly past their days of youth, were dancing feverishly, wine glasses in hand.
From behind a tantalizing display of lights, Tiësto worked an immaculate control over the crowd, playing a remix of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Otherside,” which dropped to a majestic synth melody and pounding bass hits. An immense video screen above switched rapidly between camera angles of the stage before flashing the words “SANTA BARBARA MAKE SOME NOISE,” to which the audience eagerly obliged.
Tiësto’s collaboration with Hardwell, “Zero 76,” was played simultaneous with an explosion of white confetti. A remix of Kanye West’s “Lost in the World” followed, prominently featuring the chorus, sung by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The iconic trance adaptation of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” arrived just an hour into the set, followed by Avicii’s “Levels” that lead into a remix of Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” the lyrics to which nearly the entire audience flawlessly recited.
The performance continued in a crescendo of fan-favorites like “Escape Me,” “Sending My Love” and Kaskade’s “Pressure,” and finally culminated with the Tegan and Sara collaboration “Feel it in my Bones.”
The night evolved as pulsating synths, reverberating bass and cool blue lighting produced a dichotomy between nocturnal club atmosphere and the venue’s outdoor, organic setting. Tiësto transformed the Santa Barbara Bowl into something it had likely never been: an immersive, uninhibited mix of old and young, natural and artificial, in cohesive celebration of not only music, but of a phenomenon.