A State of Trance 500 Sydney - The Review
With five massive events taking place across Johannesburg, Miami, Buenos Aires, and Dutch city Den Bosch. With the climactic event descending on Sydney's spectacular Acer Arena were locked and loaded for a party to remember.
“All units stand by. Prepare for transmission. Set frequencies. Connecting global audience.”
These grandiose words have been ringing out across the world during March and April, with the live broadcasts listened to by tens of millions, the #trancefamily hashtags trending all over Twitter, and the set rips distributed enthusiastically via just about every direct download service known to man. The celebrations for the 500th episode of the already hugely successful ‘A State of Trance’ radio show have been a marketing triumph for Armin van Buuren and the Armada Records juggernaut, with five massive events taking place across Johannesburg, Miami, Buenos Aires and Dutch city Den Bosch. With the climactic event descending on Sydney’s spectacular Acer Arena, the city’s trance faithful were locked and loaded for a party to remember.
The punters filtered into the arena nice and early at 9pm to witness upcoming US DJ/producer Shogun warming up the crowd nicely with a well-received set of progressive trance. Local dance promoter Future Entertainment’s setup lived up to the spectacle we’d witness from the other cities - giant circular lighting installations hovering over the dancefloor, a massive stage that put the DJ in the spotlight, flanked by the ASOT logo and several video screens, confetti exploding over the crowd at key moments and lights and lasers galore. Plus backstage, a radio studio hosted by Armin for most of the evening, keeping the millions of worldwide listeners in the loop.
Aussie golden boy Tydi was always a forgone conclusion for this party, himself not unlike a “baby Armin van Burren”, and he dropped a tightly-woven set of his trademark “prog-lite” trance that went down like a treat. With Menno De Jong stepping up next though, the excitement flattened out just a little. A lot of the internet chatter during ASOT 500 has labored on how creatively bereft many argue the trance scene is in 2011, and if there was ever a stage where the detractors seemed to have a point, then it was during Meno’s somewhat uninspiring set. Egyptian sensation Aly & Fila lifted the tempo up again next, just as heavy in driving beats and shrill acid as it was euphoric melodies, only let down by passable programming that occasionally reduced it to breakdown after breakdown after breakdown. German heavyweight Alex M.O.R.P.H was the evening’s biggest surprise though - driving the crowd to distraction with an intro that seemed to last for 10 minutes, the wildcard of Deadmau5’s FML eventually thundered across the arena - foreshadowing a choppy, rough around the edges set that brought a welcome touch of unpredictability.
Spot on at 3am, the master of ceremonies Armin van Buuren hit the stage, greeted by an appropriately grandiose intro and crowd response. What followed was a climactic 3-hour set to wrap up the 5-week extravaganza that both emphasised how far he’s moved towards a widely accessible sound, as well as demonstrating what an utterly untouchable showman and performer he is. Beginning with a hit of the vocal trance melodrama that featured so heavily on his Mirage album last year, and associated ‘Armin Only’ events, whether it was to your trance tastes or not, the execution was flawless, with the crowd gasping when he dropped into a deep patch around half an hour in that reminded us he’s always been about more than back-to-back anthems. As the tempo rose again, Armin could be seen bouncing around the stage and dancing with wild abandon, with an infectious energy and charisma that reverberated throughout the arena.
The evening’s finale was a perfectly-mixed home run of trance anthems, vocal mashups as well as plenty of unexpected moments, including a blinding hit of pumping tech trance in the final half that walloped the rapturous crowd right across the face. Finishing with a half-hour power trance drive that reached the end of the road with Going Wrong (and the associated singalong), Armin didn’t lose the crowd’s attention for a second and any cynicism had been dashed. Even if Armin’s transformation into a Guetta-style commercial powerhouse is nearly complete – he’s done it with crowd-pleasing panache that you just cannot fault, and this was a party worth staying until the very end.