London-born Four Tet (a.k.a. Kieran Hebden) has long been one of electronic music’s leading lights, but even his continually inventive and melodic nine albums did not prepare fans for the wildly immersive and elaborate fusion of light and sound at his current run of concerts.
Wednesday night’s two-hour-long show — which has already held down residencies in London and Los Angeles — was the midpoint of a five-night run at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, a small and acoustically pristine venue with a main area the size of a dancefloor. Dozens of wires containing hundreds and hundreds of small lights dangled from rigging about 25 feet above the floor, creating a forest of lights that flashed or pulsated with the music (primarily from his latest album “New Energy,” along with tracks from his last few outings), creating a dazzling and immersive effect that words fail to capture: The lights would glow and/or pulsate and change color gently at some points; create fast-moving walls of light that swept in sequence across the room at others; other times they’d shape-shift. It was like a cross between a wild Christmas-light display and “Tron,” with Hebden at the center, surrounded by the audience but laser-focused on his set, which was completely instrumental except for the lovely song by Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar incorporated into his 2015 track “Morning Side.” (Unfortunately, he did not play the takes on songs by Selena Gomez and Basement Jaxx featured in his BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix last week.)
Throughout the set, the crowd alternated between dancing, filming the lights with their phones and just staring in awe for minutes on end. And as people filed out of the venue — into a heaving blizzard that dumped a foot of snow onto the city Wednesday and Thursday — nearly everyone we walked past was talking about it in stunned tones. The fusion is so innovative that it feels like it belongs in the Tate Modern or the Museum of Modern Art, although National Sawdust has much better acoustics.
#FourTet 's show tonight was the greatest fusion of lights and music I've ever seen – hundreds of little lights hanging from the ceiling in a venue the size of a dance floor, like a Christmas-light version of Tron – thank you @meganbuerger for the subtle encouragement ("You HAVE TO GO. It is incredible incredible incredible") and @raspberryjones for facetime (+ face value)
Hebden is fiercely independent, so much so that his longtime publicist could only say “sorry!” when asked about photos from the show or press tickets, but there’s a nice collection on Mixmag — which called it “the best live show in the world” with little exaggeration — and a pile of Instagram shots. (This writer’s own are embedded.)
Sadly, apparently this was his third-to-last show with the lights: While he has many concerts and DJ sets scheduled in the coming weeks and months, Thursday and Friday in Brooklyn are the last two scheduled ones for this particular incarnation. Both shows are sold out, but it’s well worth using any reasonable means necessary to witness.