Overhead stage lights bathed concert-goers in a hazy blue glow Oct. 7 as The Sylvee prepared to host a tour stop concert from North Carolina native DJ Porter Robinson.
Robinson’s appearance coincided with his “Nurture” live tour, a series of performances meant to promote the artist’s new album of the same name. For his performance, the DJ brought a wide video screen to backlight each song, something each of the show’s performers utilized in different ways.
First to take the stage for the evening was James Ivy, a musician from New York who brought a much more traditional performance style with his use of acoustic guitar and vocals. As he explained to the audience during his performance, Ivy was very excited to join Robinson on his tour. This excitement was readily apparent throughout his half hour show as Ivy appeared comfortable and carefree on stage throughout.
While most of his songs were originals, Ivy also paid tribute to Robinson with a cover of “Something Comfortable,” a track from “Nurture.”. For his final song of the night, Ivy debuted his new song “Pushin’ Through It” which was set to release hours later at midnight. This got the audience particularly excited as raucous applause was heard at the conclusion of the piece.
Ivy’s performance was highlighted by an added layer of nostalgia from his selection of backing visuals, which consisted of VHS-style home videos of nature scenes, city streets and footage of high school classes. All around a solid opener, Ivy brought a mix of energy and emotion to his show which gave the audience a taste of the night to come.
For the second act of the night, Jai Wolf took to the stage. Also a New York native, Wolf delivered the audience their first taste of electronic music for the night, a sample of what was to come when Robinson would later take the stage.
“You guys wanna go on a journey with me?” Wolf said before beginning his set, inviting the audience to a deeper connection with the music.
This theme of journeying largely summarized Wolf’s video accompaniment, as the background scenes ranged throughout a variety of scenes from busy cities to empty outer space.
Many moments during the show featured imagery of astronauts, which was eventually followed up by a screening of the music video for Wolf’s “Lose My Mind” which takes place in outer space.
While Wolf’s show was a welcome introduction to the electronic half of the evening’s music, the performer did very little in the way of a performance outside of musicality as he mostly remained behind his DJ stand for the entirety of the show, a stark contrast from his colleagues who made use of more of the stage space during their time in the spotlight.
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Lastly came Robinson who took the stage much to the elation of the audience. The Sylvee seemed to come alive with the opening few beats of Robinson’s set, with thundering bass rhythms and searing treble harmonies filling the room.
By far the most versatile performer of the night, Robinson made use of his vocals, as well as a piano, a keyboard and an array of other more technical pieces of DJ equipment. At one point, Robinson even took out his personal MacBook to display a video from his webcam on the video screen.
Also taking advantage of the video screen, Robinson overlaid many of his songs with calming imagery of grass, birds, clouds and other nature scenes, creating a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. The stage also underwent a transformation with the appearance of Robinson as an underfoot video board activated, bringing another dimension to the accompanying video.
These underfoot images such as a grassy field, water and even a computer keyboard, added an interesting aspect to the show. As Robinson told the crowd, The Sylvee was the first venue which had upper row seating in which audience members had a direct view of the floor level screen on his tour.
Many of Robinson’s songs throughout the night revolved around themes of positivity as Robinson addressed inner monologues, encouraging oneself and imagining happiness for loved ones, giving the show an overall very wholesome and gentle feel.
Robinson drove this point home by taking time to interact with the audience, at one point breaking out into a laughing fit during a performance of his piano piece “Blossom” at fans who would not stop screaming during the performance. He also took numerous opportunities to display his easy stage presence by laying down on the stage, speaking with the audience and dancing along with the music.
When the show concluded and the lights faded to black, members of the audience called for an encore, chanting for “one more song” from Robinson before he left. The performer obliged this with a performance of two more pieces before calling it a night, much to the amusement of the crowd.
The result was a concert full of lighthearted and uplifting moments, making it hard to contain a smile. Spectators and performers alike would certainly agree that Robinson’s tour stop in Madison certainly did not disappoint.