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World tour kickoff concert proves tedious, cliched
MAJOR LAZER at Sound Academy, Thursday, February 28. Rating: N
Despite the slickly designed herb grinders on offer at the merch table, pot did not seem like the best drug to do at the kickoff for Major Lazer’s world tour.
In the studio, the group’s take on dancehall veers towards a playfully leftfield take on the genre’s many iterations, from bone-rattling bangers to bubbly riddims and ballads. Unfortunately, any whiff of the Diplo-led group’s worldly eclecticism was eclipsed by a choppy set list and blandly corporate showmanship.
Producer/DJs Diplo and Jillionaire, sporting suit and tie looks, took their posts atop a stack of speakers and wasted no time emptying the confetti cannons. The crowd, brimming with tipsy anticipation, instantly erupted. But weirdly, the group failed to capitalize on that momentum. By the end, front man Walshy Fire would be the one begging for an encore.
What happened along the way? The show started to feel like an exercise in brand-building around the point when Fire paused to orchestrate a reaction shot for the group’s Harlem Shake remix video. (We didn’t get it right the first time so they did a re-take.)
After that he sounded more like an audience wrangler for a talk show than a hype man at a dancehall jam: “I want you to put your arms in the air” “I want everyone to jump in the air” “If you’re drinking but not driving, put your hands in the air” etc.
Meanwhile, Diplo and Jillionaire’s efforts felt phoned in. They glossed over pleasant rocksteady numbers like Can’t Stop Now in favour of by-the-book buzzsaw build-ups, numbing, Smack My Bitch Up-style big beat and remixes of no-brainers like I’m Drinking Rum and Redbull, Jump Around and Drop It Like It’s Hot.
New Orleans bounce-inspired new song Bubble Butt was sunk by an uninspiring twerk-off and – in what’s become a painfully tedious concert staple – they stopped the music to pose for a photo with the audience in the background.
More inspiring was the crowd sing-a-long to Get Free, a sweet summer ballad that was one of last year’s best pop songs. It was also a rare moment of spontaneity that underscored Major Lazer’s need for more curveballs. From the unmemorable backup dancers to Diplo crowd-surfing in a Flaming Lips-style inflatable ball, Major Lazer’s live razzle-dazzle failed to live up to the adventurousness of their recorded music.