Expectations ran high for American DJ and producer Kaskade on Friday evening, as his show at the Staples Center marked the first time an electronic dance music act sold out the 18,000-seat arena. Critical eyes lay on the performance — popular DJ Avicii, for instance, had attempted his own ambitious arena tour earlier this year to many struggles including rescheduling and cancellations.Suffice it to say, Kaskade’s showing at the iconic venue stands as an explosive success, a watermark event that showed the drawing power of EDM and one that had the audience throbbing and dancing nonstop, from the floor to the box seats to the nosebleed sections. Perhaps a testament to the growing appeal of the genre, Kaskade’s show attracted an enormously diverse group of fans, from businessmen dancing in shined leather oxfords to the de rigeur teenage ravers, many in little more than lingerie and rainbow-hued beads. The adrenaline began to flow from the second that Kaskade took the stage and opened with “Eyes,” a beautifully ethereal trance ballad, as a cloud of fog rose from the stage. The crowd grew increasingly anxious as he built layers upon layers of sound in preparation to drop the beat, and when that moment finally arrived, the sea of bodies in front of the stage surged in rhythm as happy screams floated from the audience. Though expected for a tour this size, the production values of the show could have gone toe-to-toe with any in the EDM world. Gorgeously vivid LED boards on either side of and behind the DJ flaunted Kaskade’s nature-themed visuals (appropriate, as it is the “Freaks of Nature” tour), flashing acid-trip images of butterflies, blossoming plants and the night sky. The visual show took a turn for the surreal with a rendition of hit track “Llove”: The image of guest vocalist Haley appeared on the set, her face tiled across the screens in mesmerizing fashion. Solid sound mixing made for a satisfying aural experience as well — shatteringly crisp treble tones melded well with Kaskade’s growling low-end bass, with the midrange clean and defined (sometimes a challenge for indoor DJ sets). And the small touches, from billowing jets of fog to the light-up balloons that were bounced into the audience, added a dynamic touch to an already spectacle-filled show. One would be hard-pressed to find a better moment than his superb remix of “Turn It Down,” which sent the crowd into a delighted rage as white shards of confetti rained down from above. Near the end of the show, Kaskade stepped down from his DJ stand, teasing the audience before closing out the night with the Deadmau5 collaboration “I Remember,” followed by his devastating take on “Sending My Love” by R3hab and Swanky Tunes. “It’s so nice to come home in California,” he told the audience, inspiring a huge roar of approval. “I love you guys!” Judging by the tired grins of the thousands filing out of the arena, the feeling was mutual.
Staples Center; 18,000 capacity; $65 top
Presented by Rockstar Energy Drink. Performer: Kaskade. Reviewed July 27, 2012.