Go Hardwell or Go Home

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Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Bethlehem Pennsylvania installment of the Hardwell Revealed North American Bus Tour.  Named “#1 DJ in the World” on multiple occasions, Hardwell created a huge buzz in the college community when he announced this tour, stopping at big-name campuses like Syracuse and Penn State.  Coming along for the tour, of course, were two fellow Revealed-Recording DJs and friends, Dannic and Dyro. The show was scheduled to begin at 8PM at the Sands Bethlehem Event Arena, with excitement and anticipation running high until DJ Dannic finally took the stage at 10PM.  As bright-blue lights flashed “DANNIC” behind the massive stage, the crowd screamed as the Netherlands-based DJ began his hour-long set.  He began by pumping up the crowd with some fast-paced house music.

One of the first songs he dropped was one of his more recent recordings “Dear Life” featuring Bright Lights.  While “Dear Life” worked flawlessly to get the crowd dancing and singing, it didn’t particularly shine when partnered with other, similarly sentimental, EDM tracks such as Hardwell’s “Dare You.”  Nonetheless, Dannic did an excellent job of getting the crowd pumped up.  Next to the stage was Dyro, an up-and-coming Dutch DJ who broke out in the 2013 EDM scene.  Both Dannic and Dyro made their way up in the scene largely through successful remixes, and their respective sets definitely reflected this.  During Dyro’s set, he mixed in popular tracks like Mat Zo and Porter Robinson’s “Easy” and “Booyah” by Showtek feat. We Are Loud and Sonny Wilson.  Upbeat numbers like these complimented his original beats and worked to uplift the crowd even more.

Opening performances by DJs Dannic and Dyro succeeded in animating the audience into an excited crowd, illuminated in neon lights and bright faces, but by midnight, everyone was ready for Hardwell to perform.  As the lights dimmed, Dyro and Hardwell quietly traded places, leaving the crowd in eager anticipation – and I can assure you, his set did not disappoint.  Not only did Hardwell work in beats to satisfy the average EDM listener, ranging from intense trap to classic house music, but he dropped tracks to entice even the newest and most hesitant raver.

No one expected him to drop A$AP Rock’s “F**ckin’ Problems,” let alone The Game and 50 Cent’s 2004 hit, “This is How We Do”.  But he worked them into his set flawlessly, reworking lighter hip-hop beats into full-on EDM melodies immediately after the rap verses.  Hardwell also dropped some of the same tracks from his closing Ultra 2014 set, namely, Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” and “Young and Beautiful” and Bastille’s “Pompeii”.  Needless to say, mainstream tracks like these did plenty to get the crowd shamelessly belting out lyrics and lifting their arms in the air.  Another, more EDM-based, hit from his UMF 2014 set that he dropped was a spaced-out interactive remix of Armin Van Buuren’s “Ping Pong.”  During this track, Hardwell motioned his arms back and forth, to the slowed-down melody of pings and pongs going back and forth, inviting the audience to mirror his motions.  Some other EDM-hits that he mixed in were Tiesto’s “Red Light”, Dada Life’s “Born to Rage”, and a sped-up remix of Disclosure feat. Sam Smith’s “Latch”.

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Nearing the end of his set, Hardwell began playing staccato snippets of a track that everyone seemed to recognize, but no one could name for sure.  As he dropped more and more pieces of the tune at an intensified pace, we all suddenly realized that it was the intro to “Apollo”, one of Hardwell’s most recognizable and perhaps classic tracks.  Once it dawned on us, the song progressed and the audience sang the addicting lyrics in unison, “We are the lucky ones, we are, we are…”  He then invited Dannic and Dyro back on stage to join him, announcing that the trio was now to be known as “Dutch House Mafia”.  Hardwell egged on the crowd, consistently asking if we wanted more.  Of course, everyone shouted, begging for additional tracks to make the night last longer.  He dropped a sample of Yellowclaw’s very danceable “Shotgun”, and ultimately finishing the set with his iconic track, “Spaceman”.

I think it’s safe to say that when the show finally came to a close at around 2:30 AM, everyone was exhausted, but even more satisfied.  Hardwell went beyond what is typically expected from an EDM DJ-set – he was an entertainer in every sense, consistently infusing his progressive-house flavor into more popular, well –known tracks from an array of different genres.  While Dannic and Dyro’s performances left me wanting a bit more, Hardwell’s set took so many unexpected and refreshing turns that I can definitely see where the hype comes from.  Overall, I rate the concert a 7 out of 10 – I’d love to see Hardwell again in a more festival-like setting, with higher energy and excitement from the crowd, and I look forward to see where Dannic and Dyro’s respective careers carry them.

Images courtesy of Facebook