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Above & Beyond, Hordern Pavilion

With their fingers deep in many dancey pies, multiple recording labels, signed artists and side projects Above & Beyond are arguably one of the most significant producing forces in the trance genre. Having listened to them via their multiple strands of production; Anjunabeats, Anjunadeep and OceanLab for many years they are definitely one of my longstanding guilty pleasures.
 
Queue the arrival of Above & Beyond on Australian shores. January 27th saw 2 members of the group, Tony McGuiness and Paavo Siljamaki play to a sold out event held at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney. Just to be clear, it was SOLD OUT. That’s 5,500 excited fans wedged into the Hordern. I’d never imagined Australians to be trance enthusiasts but obviously Above & Beyond was reason enough for all of our closet trance lovers to come out of the cracks and into the bright, shiny, enchanting lights.
 
Trance is clearly a genre that doesn’t discriminate, a factor which was visibly reflected in the diversity of the crowd; old school candy-ravers, full stop oldies, hipsters, glow-stick twirling youth and people from all cultures and areas were there to exhibit equally how much they loved Above & Beyond.
 
Andrew Bayer (also signed to the Anjunadeep label) was responsible for warming up the crowd from 8-11, and with a mixture of well known trance classics, tracks from his recent release It’s Artificial and an accompanying unicorn light show the crowd were suitably fuzzy and beaming in no time.
 
From the moment I arrived I knew that this was a very special night, not only was I overwhelmed by the grandiose scale of the event but I was mesmerised by the masses of captivated fans, all moving together in a sort of buoyant, sweaty limbed, intertwined wave. And did I mention there were unicorns?!
 
By the time Above & Beyond took the stage the buzz in the room was so unfathomably positive that I wish I could bottle it and sell it as an anti depressant. This remained consistent throughout the night and for not one second did it waver. It was immense, intense, loud, and extremely spectacular from start to finish.
 
Above & Beyond played a mix of tracks from Group Therapy (their most recent album release), older tracks, personal favourites, original tracks remixed for release in 2013, tracks under Ocean Lab, from Jaytech, Andy Moor, Norin & Rad and pleasingly from their soon to be released Anjuna Beats Volume 10.
 
The set took the crowd gloriously through all the multifaceted, infamous peaks and lulls of the music.  Trance music is all about extremes; jagged edges, so sharp and shiny and dark they practically cut you, evolve, somehow seamlessly into soft, cascading, harmonies so peaceful they make you float. This juxtaposition filtered through to the visual display accompanying the music; rushing trains through dark tunnels suddenly gave way to waterfalls plummeting into swirling water, mermaids fluidly drifting, linking their hands with others and doves soaring through misty sky into fluffy clouds. As I looked around watching the effect this had over the crowd I remembered the main differentiating factor between trance and other genres of music. Other music makes you move but trance makes you feel.  You feel it running through your veins until it lifts you, giving you no choice but to move. That’s the thing about uplifting trance I guess, if it doesn’t lift you, it fails.  That should be a mathematical equation in the trance secret to success recipe book.
 
 Smile + sweat + movement </> = goosebumps from finger to toe = trance success.
 
If there wasn’t already enough mutual adoration bouncing around that night Above & Beyond went one step further in proving that trance is the genre that loves you back. Literally. The boys spent their entire set typing messages, in real time, so the words appeared as the back drop to their already sumptuous and emotive audio visual and lights show.
 
The messages, varied in their genesis gave us insights into the tracks, their lives, their musical journeys and for some extra sugar coating the odd optimism boosting cliché got thrown about. Although at times they were erring on the side of cheesy they made me smile for the way they generated such a heightened sense of bliss amongst the crowd.
 
Smart boys those ones, this very simple tactic allowed them to reach out to every one of their fans in the most personal way possible, thanking them, inspiring them and loving them. One of my favourites read:  “Close your eyes, open your heart. Let the music in”.
 
Needless to say, if they weren’t producers they could definitely be psychologists. Or, Buddha.
 
Unsurprisingly the Hordern provided the perfect arena for the event, the vastness of the room allows just enough space for the sounds to echo, bounce and loop around it without over dominating or distorting the music. Above & Beyond themselves were advocates, supporting it via several messages; ‘Sydney we love how you sound! We love this room, the sound is amazing!’
 
Amazing indeed. Mesmerizing, enlightening, captivating and energizing. I stood, encased in my own personal LED coloured trance pyramid throwing vicious shapes around with all the vigour of a crazed banshee.
 
About 2 hours into the set the crowd got what they had been waiting for with Sun & Moon finally gifted to us. I don’t think I’ve ever held my breath waiting for a track to drop for so long, there’s plenty of peaks and troughs and dramatic crescendos and climaxes in trance but Above & Beyond paused Sun & Moon at its pinnacle moment for almost 20 seconds, forcing the crowd to teeter on the edge of euphoria before they released it, and us into a wash of sheer manic bliss.  Just as they did chunky confetti was released from the ceiling signifying their departure and celebrating theier exhaled passion, the sweaty limbs and the time we had all spent together in unity, linked through music and in love with the same feeling and moment in time.
 
Norin & Rad, two Californian based producers (also members of Anjunadeep family) closed the show with their grittier, slightly heavier tunes, ensuring that the crowd was all danced out to the point of exhaustion and thoroughly thrilled by the time they left.
 
Above & Beyond are pioneers of their craft and their boundless passion radiates through their music and their delivery of it.  Combined with such depth of skill and an unerring effervescent energy I’m confident that they will be the ‘Fathers of Trance’ for a very long time. More than a performance, a gig, an event or a rave Above & Beyond gave us all a moment in time.  And as they closed their set, with one last message;
 
“Life is truly made of small moments like these”.
 
I couldn’t agree more.
 
Words – The Other Jess

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