Calvin Harris claimed in a rare interview last week that his 2014 hit single Summer was “the last EDM song that was successful”. If the Scottish producer is moving away from the cacophonous strain of Americanised dance music that has seen him named the highest earning DJ in the world three years running, it wasn’t evident at the Apple Music Festival.
Stationed high up at the prow of two rectangular screens, with more giant screens behind him, he most often looked as if he was hurtling backwards into a relentless computer game. Although this underwear model doing very little was the objective focal point, the excess on display was remarkable. Only at a Calvin Harris show can you find out what balls of fire and blasts of steam at the same time feel like (the temperature rises somewhat) or what lasers looks like shining through a confetti explosion (very pretty actually).
He wore headphones, a symbolic prop with as much effect on the music as Frank Sinatra’s hat. A brand new song saved til last, My Way, might signify a shift towards subtlety given that he sings it himself (though he didn’t here) and it has more of a tropical than an end-of-the-world feel, but in truth the most interesting thing about it is whether or not it’s about his A-list ex-girlfriend Taylor Swift.
He missed another opportunity to bring a human touch to proceedings by playing Blame without its singer John Newman, even though Newman was yards away as the evening’s passionate support act. Other songs such as Under Control and Feel So Close were escaped circus elephants, rampaging to their climaxes as quickly as possible.
His Disciples collaboration, How Deep is Your Love, had a yearning to its chorus, and Rihanna’s line, “We found love in a hopeless place”, had an underlying sadness that made it stand out amid all the forced grin cynicism.
One characteristic of EDM’s takeover of the singles chart in recent years (Harris’s 18 Months album spawned more hits than Thriller) is that dance music now does in three minutes what it used to do in 10. This was like a football match in which the score was 16-12 – all the euphoria without enough build-up to make it special.