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I kept thinking throughout Paul Oakenfold's live set that it would be awesome if the vocals were dropped. Then the live guitars and then the live drums. That would leave us with just the electronic music and the visuals, which would be a huge improvement.

I first was introduced to Oakenfold while at Burning Man 2000, and I really got into the high-energy trance music from his Tranceport mix. Since then, similar mixes I've heard from him haven't disappointed and I was looking forward to dancing live to such a DJ set.

At the show in the Northgate Music Theatre, Oakenfold played a one-hour DJ set, and a one-hour "live" performance featuring tracks from his all-original effort, Bunkka. This was my first visit to the theatre, which seems to be aspiring to take over the role of NAF Studios as the venue of choice for many ravers in the Seattle area, and while the atmosphere is quite good, the slanted floor makes it hard to dance (though it's probably quite good to watch a show).

Oakenfold's DJ set was quite good: "the music gradually building". The first part of it was tepid, but he then built it up to the superlative quality found in one of his best mixes, Tranceport. Unfortunately, this high-energy trance that I've come to associate with Oakenfold lasted only about 20-30 minutes.

The live tracks he and his supporting band performed from Bunkka were okay, but there is nothing distinctive about this music, and in fact, there are hundreds of rock/garage bands out there that can make music of equal quality. Unlike his trance sounds which carry a distinctive signature and pioneering quality, his original music is just like most of rock music. As a result, while I enjoyed the show, I myself would've preferred a three-hour DJ from this dance music magician. The visuals that accompanied were quite psychedelic and made for some cool viewing from the seated area of the theatre.

The opening and closing DJs, Hernan Cattaneo and Eva, who I unfortunately didn't catch much of, were very good. If I had arrived earlier or stayed longer, they'd have probably made up for the lack of danceable music in the show.

In sum, it's all a matter of expectations. As a rock show/concert, it was quite good (though if I had wanted a rock show with moshers and crowd-surfers and people jumping off the decks, I'd have gone to see Primus instead). As a dance party, there was only a brief period of brilliance. Depending on what you're looking for, you may or may not want to miss this one.

Music ramblings || Ram Samudrala || || December 14, 2002