Act II of Cosmic Opera, was quite fun to attend, but ultimately failed to fulfill its promise.
The electronic dance music (EDM) concert series in New York is promoted as a next-level DJ show, with aerialists, operatic performances and violinists blended seamlessly together for an entirely new experience.
But that's not the experience concertgoers who attended either Thursday or Friday's shows -- featuring Felix Cartal, DJ boy wonder Zedd and Fedde Le Grand -- received. Instead, the audience was treated to a typical house music concert with little more theatrics than the average show at venues like New York's Roseland Ballroom.
It's not that the aerialists, violinist and fire breathers weren't there (they were), but they were not integrated into the DJ's sets in any meaningful way. Zedd walked out with a conductor's baton, and that was perhaps the biggest theatrical twist of the evening.
When I interviewed Cosmic Opera founder Justin Cohen in advance of Act I of the series (helmed by Swedish House Mafia member Axwell), he could not stop singing the praises of Hammerstein Ballroom, the venerable music hall the Cosmic Opera series calls home.
But aside from the impressive scale of the LCD screens behind the DJ booth, I was hard-pressed to find ways the Opera incorporated the historical venue into the production. There were no 3-D projections to make the angels in the dauntingly high ceiling descend upon the crowd (as was promised for Act I), and a big "chandelier" which appeared interesting at first was actually just a bunch of sclerotic trussing that descended limply and haltingly to add some strobe lights to the production.
At at least two points in the evening, rope dancers ascended into the air above the crowd. Their twisting and turning drew the audience's attention for a few moments, but without any corresponding shifts in music (perhaps a more tense track or an extended build up to a breakdown timed with their movements), they were soon forgotten by the crowd, who went back to dancing and watching the DJ.
To Cohen's credit, if the 24-year-old event promoter extraordinaire hadn't pitched the show as something entirely unique, it would have met its mandate ably. But to any seasoned attended of EDM shows, there just wasn't much in the way of innovation.
Zedd continues to lay down some of EDM's most high-octane DJ sets, ripping through an onslaught of familiar house hits from Dada Life's "Kick Out the Epic Motherf-----" to Knife Party's "Internet Friends."
Le Grand (of "Put Your Hands Up 4 Detroit" fame) also provided a strong set, keeping the crowd (which was notably not anywhere near capacity) amped with a blend of house anthems ("Feel So Close" by Calvin Harris, Benny Benassi's "House Music, his own "So Much Love" and his remix of "Paradise" by Coldplay) and sing-along pop-house tracks (a remix of One Republic's "Apologize").
Perhaps the best way to critique the overall production was to say that the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly when Le Grand played dBerrie's cathartic remix of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know."
The crowd went wild and screamed along with the lyrics, perhaps briefly forgetting the fatigue that usually accompanies the 2 o'clock am hour on a Friday after a week of work. But they could have done the same in any club in America.
Extremely Amateur Photos From Cosmic Opera, Act II: