By any number of measures, Dutch born DJ/producer Tiesto is an international musical superstar. He's been voted "Best DJ in the World" by DJ Magazine three years in a row. He performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Athens, making history as the first DJ to do so. He regularly fills stadiums with 30,000-plus fans, and on Friday he was in Houston dropping his beats as part of his Kaleidoscope World Tour.
H-town-based promotion company Night Culture 77002 put together the show at Reliant Arena that ultimately drew about 5,000 people from a wide array of background and ages. Certainly there were some old-school ravers, but absolutely every other demographic was in the mix as well, and despite what one may expect, the event had less of a club vibe and felt more like a full on concert.
Although Tiesto has been making proclamations lately that his sound has expanded past the Trance category, Friday's set was nothing if not Trance. It was nuanced slightly with some sirenesque vocals here and there, and there were moments when he played with some polyphony; but overall it was a relatively standard roller coaster of repetitive, layered synthesized beats meticulously and seamlessly executed, and the crowd loved it. The sound system was phenomenal, reaching to the farthest corners of the venue and filling it with that deep bass that hits you between the sternum and the gut.
Half the audience was in sneakers and ready to move, and the other half was decked to be seen and on the prowl. There were glow sticks aplenty, but few of the rolling eyes and gnashing teeth that often accompany a DJ set. The floor of the Arena was packed almost back to the wall, but the show seemed genial and high-energy rather than crowded.
Tiesto was anchored in the middle of the stage in his digital turntable cockpit and stationed in front of a multi-million dollar light installation. There was an enormous square LED screen directly behind him flanked by two rectangular screens on both sides, each of which was interspersed with high-intensity strobes.
The graphics displayed were varied but often channeled Tron and were punctuated by Atari moments with a chunk that had to be a Pac-Man homage. The images shown and timing of the lights consistently synched with the rhythmic set, providing an essential visual component to the show which when combined with the music created a deeply visceral experience.
Whether or not Tiesto is, indeed, the best DJ in the world is entirely debatable - a debate we'll leave for another time - but on Friday he delivered exactly what the audience wanted with professionalism and skill, and nobody went home disappointed.