Odesza occupies a distinct position within popular dance culture today. Their recognizable brand of spacey, up-tempo dance music fits naturally in the realm of pristinely produced recorded music, and their most recent release A Moment Apart was considered a continuation of members Harrison Mills and Clayton Knights’ success in that regard, earning Grammy nominations for both Best Dance Recording and Best Dance Album. Despite the group’s notable concert success in the past, the question for fans was how well A Moment Apart would translate to the live setting. The group’s debut performance at The Anthem on Friday, November 24th assuaged any such doubts.
After openers Louis Futon and Sofi Tukker took their turns engaging the sold out crowd, each met with lukewarm appreciation, Odesza took the stage as the opening notes of “Intro” began to play. Even from this modest musical introduction, fans were immersed in the impressive auditory and visual effects accompanying the band on stage. Bright, fractal visual content played relentlessly as “Intro” faded into “A Moment Apart” and “Bloom,” eventually building to the hit “Say My Name.” These visuals, when synchronized with lighting effects and Mills and Knight’s drumming on stage made for a pleasantly disorienting experience. The duo would play lesser-known songs on the album such as “Show Me” or “Boy” paired with spinning lights and visuals, creating a dizzying sensation when paired with the up-tempo beats designed to make it feel as if one was hurtling through space. This disorientation was used intentionally to keep the audience engaged through slower sections before building to a hit song like “Late Night” or “Line of Sight,” upon which all movement would stop and the audience was released to dance and sing along.
Odesza took these songs a step further, producing a slew of live instrumentalists to accompany songs for which they wanted the audience’s undivided attention. The group sequentially brought out trombones, trumpets, an electric guitar, and a full drum line in order to escalate the on-stage content and differentiate the live performance from their recorded music. This worked particularly well with “Across The Room” and “Say My Name,” aided by the audience’s excitement to hear these recognizable hits. This attempt also fell short at times, however, especially when the audience was expecting the crystal clear electronic breakdowns present on the album and instead received the understandably limited reproductions that live instruments are capable of.
The nature of the group’s high stimulation live content also set an unsustainable pace. The audience naturally drifted into lulls during the album’s lesser-known songs, prominently later in the set with songs like “Memories That You Call” and “Keep Her Close,” creating breaks in the immersion that felt especially pronounced. During these breaks vape-smokers and shoulder-sitters alike felt the wrath of Anthem staff equipped with small flashlights, further creating a divide between the audience and the performers. The show clearly relied on building this immersion and it was easy to feel lost once the spell was broken in these moments.
Luckily, the audience seemed to take these breaks as a welcome opportunity to breathe and relax, eagerly anticipating the next high-energy tune. Odesza capitalized on these opportunities well, and the highs of “Divinity (Remix),” “Higher Ground,” and “Falls” were felt and enjoyed by an eager audience. By the time that “Across the Room (reprise)” transitioned into “Sun Models” the show felt like a triumph, with golden confetti raining down to signal to fans that the dance-induced exhaustion they were feeling was warranted. Despite the low energy moments, many fans were surprised to find that they had been dancing continuously for nearly two hours, and broke out of their reveries for a final celebratory duo of “Corners of the Earth” and “It’s Only.” Mills and Knight pulled this off by doing what they do best: underlying their exciting melodic content with hypnotic rhythms that paused as little as possible throughout the show. The lighting and visual effects contributed significantly, but the music was the underlying current that kept the show interesting, and by its conclusion it was easy to feel as though one had just completed a long, rewarding journey. A continuation of A Moment Apart’s success, Odesza’s live show was an immersive and satisfying experience, and will no doubt continue to be enjoyed by audiences in the remainder of their tour.