Above & Beyond @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (10/09/2011)

Image for Above & Beyond @ Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (10/09/2011)

Over the course of the past five years, love them or hate them, Above & Beyond have been one of the most popular trance acts across the globe, regularly packing out stadiums and their tunes bellowed out by many a trance fan with his/her hands raised. A few months ago, the follow up album to their epic debut Tri-State was released, titled Group Therapy, and this was the Sydney leg of their tour to promote it.

And promote it they certainly did. Warm up duties fell to local boys Nathan Cryptic and Arbor respectively, before we had two hours celebrating two of the rising talents of the progressive trance genre: the first hour was Mat Zo, the second was our very own Jaytech. Zo certainly didn’t hold back and pumped out some pretty banging trance, especially given the timeslot. Few minded though and it laid some pretty solid foundations for the rest of the night, and also went some way to getting the sound right (more on that later). Zo threw in his own Superman as well as a smattering of vocals with the likes of his Sorry Alquimia mash-up, (Parker/Hanson/Bayer/Kaskade/Dirty South), that had everyone’s hands raised early.

Canberra boy Jaytech actually came out dressed for business (a collar often does that) and he proceeded to drop an hour of power. Less of the proggy stuff that we’ve grown to expect from him, but instead a strong, fun trance set. It might be a local bias, but again he nailed it. I kid you not, I am yet to experience Jaytech play a bad set; they are always win, and this was no exception. He laced it with some lovely melodies, and by midnight, anticipation was fever pitch as everyone had truly settled into their groove.

The place had filled up nicely, people had begun taking off their clothes (true story) and while Jaytech had gone out hard, he had brought it back nicely to allow Above & Beyond (well, two of the three anyway) to go wherever they so desired. (That said, I’m confident that had already been long decided).

When they came on, the crowd roared as one. It was these guys that everyone had come to watch, and for the first time in a while, it was outside of a festival. When they released Group Therapy a few months ago, it was fair to say that it was met with mixed reviews. As an album it was good without being amazing, and I even opined that “it’s absolutely guaranteed that these long epic breakdowns will play out well in a big stadium”. And over the course of 150 minutes in the wee hours of Sunday morning, they would prove exactly that.

As the display behind them flashed “Hello Sydney, it’s good to be back..” they started off gently, and very much like their recent Essential Mix. It wasn’t that long after that with Home from Tri-State that they also informed us of Sydney being their ‘home away from home’. Hmmmm.

While I guess that can appeal to some people to some extent, for me, this almost twisted self-gratification really isn’t necessary. Yes, if you’re going to spend bucket loads on ‘production’, great, do it. But someone merely typing out messages, is maybe – just maybe – a touch lame. Then again, maybe I’m just getting old and jaded, as there were certainly plenty of people going mad for it. One thing the production side was lacking, though, was lasers. Stereotypes aside, I kid you not, there was barely one in the house. But enough of that, as the track selection was top shelf.

Throwing in a string of tunes that featured on the Essential Mix, the banging Around the World by Arty, their own Formula Rossa (surprisingly absent from their recent album), and Infatuation from Maor Levi & Raul Siberdi, many were reaching for the skies and feeling pretty damn good about life, even if the sound could still have been louder.

As they asked the crowd if it was ‘Time for some Group Therapy?”, all responded obligingly (we’re such a nice agreeable bunch of people, us Sydney-siders) and they delivered. They belted out the likes of You Got To Go, Thing Called Love Prelude and of course, Sun and Moon, that all now suddenly sounded so much better than they do on the album (tasty remixes will do that).

Remix or not, it mattered little, because on the back of their Essential Mix this was the set that many hoped they would deliver. Yes, some could argue that the set was predictable; I would prefer to call it safe. (One thing is for certain though: a mash-up of Daft Punk’s One More Time does not an adventurous set make.)

Ending the night with the likes of the Arty remix of Punk from Ferry Corsten, their own Can’t Sleep and the euphoric and oh-so-uplifting On A Good Day/Metropolis the hands were raised. One couldn’t help but be disappointed it had to come to an end – because whether it was the sound, the crowd (seriously guys, put some clothes on), or whoever else managed to piss you off on the night, it was a blast.

The production side may have been not quite that which you would get from an Armin party these days, or even Tiesto back in the day, but it was damn fun. The lads certainly wouldn’t have lost any fans on Saturday, and if anything, may have picked up a few here and there.