Concert review: David Guetta, Vector Arena

By Duncan Greive

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David Guetta and Tim Phin at Vector Arena, last night. Photo / Herald on Sunday
David Guetta and Tim Phin at Vector Arena, last night. Photo / Herald on Sunday

Last night Auckland played host to the man who, more than any other, has defined the sound of chart music over the last three years. He has sold millions of albums and singles, collaborated with everyone from Rihanna to The Black Eyed Peas and his signature pop house style has changed the sound of radio worldwide. While his emergence has had a deadening effect on creativity in chart music, his songs themselves are occasionally magical; hyper-melodic and candy bright, with a density of texture that sets him apart as his imitators grow ever-more slavish.

So why was his Vector Arena show - which drew around 5500 people - not packed to the roof? Because he's a producer - he does his work in studios late at night, rather than with a microphone in front of thousands of screaming fans. And despite being, ludicrously, billed as the #1 ranked DJ in the world - as though it were a combat sport - the public just doesn't get that excited about behind-the-scenes men placed front-and-centre.

Before hand opening act Tim Phin played muscular house music, with his arms frequently outstretched in Christ-like poses toward the audience.

Despite delivering a fine set, more coherent and cohesive that what was to come, the biggest roar was when he took the microphone to announce "I just got a text: David Guetta is on his way!"
Sure enough, not long after an elfin Frenchman trotted out to the gargantuan DJ booth, and commenced his endless gesturing: waving, clapping, and occasionally indulging in what could have been (but doubtless weren't) misconstrued as fascist salutes.

He opened strongly, with the yearning Titanium, featuring Australian vocalist Sia, who has become a late-blooming star at 36, while still being nearly a decade younger than Guetta himself, who has now worked and risen steadily through three distinct booms for house music. The crowd adored the single, singing along lustily (Sia herself was absent - this was a one man show) with Guetta exploiting their enthusiasm by deploying his main DJ trick - dropping the music out so their voices ring out unaccompanied - an approach he would repeat constantly throughout the long night. I guess that's how you get to be number one.

Unfortunately, though, the opening peak was also the night's most unequivocally unified moment. For the remainder of the night he alternated instrumental house of various persuasions with small fragments of the hits much of this crowd had paid over $100 to see. And as a result the initial euphoria of experiencing this most unabashedly uplifting music live gradually subsided, leaving the arena limp for long sections, aside from the hardcore up front, whose commitment was never in doubt.

The DJ himself seemed either unconcerned or oblivious - he still pumped his fist, and even leapt, Tom Cruise-style, on to the DJ booth for one bizarre moment. But for long periods the energy dissipated, only to be revived by one of his sweetly childlike melodies, like that of When Love Takes Over, featuring the wondrous pipes of former Destiny's Child singer Kelly Rowland. But no sooner had its intro commenced, with all the balmy emotion of an advertisement for feminine hygiene products, than he had cut into some brutish house break, entirely ruining the moment.

The crowd was a diverse collection of very young people united in their love for hair dye (I'm not sure that there was a single female brunette here tonight) and loathing for seasonally-appropriate clothing. They were excited, and some heroically intoxicated, but even those aids couldn't disguise the fact that Guetta, possessed of a pocket full of nuclear-strength singles, obstinately refused to deploy them in any recognisable form.

So what started out as a giant Zumba class, with everyone playing along in unison to their leader on the sparsely furnished stage, devolved ultimately into something even less enticing - a lengthy opportunity for Guetta to entertain himself at the expense of his audience.

Who: David Guetta
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Thursday 3 May

- NZ Herald

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