When British trio Above & Beyond played London’s iconic O2 Arena in November, no sooner had the final flickers of the group’s final song echoed around the dome, before a bright light illuminated the arena, shining from the LED screens behind the now-departing trance triplets. Teasing their next London date, the poster, clad in the spherical primary colours of the ‘Common Ground’ artwork, stated ‘See you in May.’
But even for the most arduous of Anjunabeats fans, few could have imagined the gargantuan size of what was in store on this gloriously sunny day in the UK capital. Embarking on their ‘Common Ground’ tour, the ‘Group Therapy’ specialists first started the hectic run of dates on 29th December 2017, spreading their spiritually-soothing blend of beats throughout the USA during the early months of 2018, with special shows at the RC Cola Plant for Miami Music Week, before headlining Armin van Buuren‘s ‘A State of Trance’ stage on the final night of Ultra Music Festival‘s 20th anniversary.
But after their recent London premiere of their ‘Giving Up The Day Job’ docu-movie, the trio had assured their native fans that the Steel Yard performance was to serve as their most special so far. Their promise soon became one of 2018’s biggest understatements as a wealth of Anjuna-talent descended on the Steel Yard, led by the afternoon’s acts, Eli & Fur, Spencer Brown, Genix & Sunny Lax, and Gabriel & Dresden.
Basking in the glorious heat of the May Bank Holiday weekend in the capital, the Finsbury Park venue proved just why Cream are regarded as the true Godfathers of dance music events in the UK, with the metal-structure; just one of several stages at the organiser’s August Creamfields festival; playing home to a whirling concoction of spinning lights, and powerful bass-backed speakers, spinning their amplified beats around every corner of the arena.
The show, which marked Tony, Jono, and Paavo’s return to the city since their sell-out shows at Wembley Arena, Alexandra Palace, Brixton Academy, and the Royal Albert Hall in recent years, was preceded first by the incredible Ilan Bluestone – producer of ‘Scars’ – one of the greatest dance albums of recent generations, with his euphoric ‘Will We Remain’ proving a particular highlight. And so with the lights of the incredible structure dimmed following Grum‘s performance, the silhouettes of not one, or even two, but all three Anjuna chefs, strode out into the spotlight, ready to cook up a delicious meal from their progressive kitchen, to the 10,000 diners packed inside the 20m high Steel Yard structure.
From the off, it was clear the Group Therapy boys were intent on delivering their A-Game, fizzing through a diverse mix of some of their greatest anthems, including Richard Bedford collaboration ‘Northern Soul’ and ‘We Are All We Need’ favourite ‘Peace of Mind’. There was even a beautifully atmospheric club mix of the usually soothing ballad ‘Always’, which left very few eyes dry, and a few heart-pounding surprises too. The first arriving, when a green flicker soon began to shine into the crowd, and on the drop of Virtual Self‘s ‘Ghost Voices‘ – surely 2018’s most eagerly audience-pleasing track so far – an array of Eric Prydz-like lasers shot out into the arena, flying over the rabid crowd’s flailing arms. With Pryda himself performing in the very same Steel Yard exactly a year ago to the day during his EPIC 5.0 performance, you can only imagine that the Swede had passed on his pyro tips to the trio.
Debuting fresh anthem ‘Red Rocks’, Above & Beyond also played out the special 2015 EDC Las Vegas mix of ‘Walter White’, featuring the vocal announcement from Bryan Cranston, aka Heisenberg. And yet still found time for their ‘big three’, the wondrous euphoria of ‘Sun & Moon’, on this occasion mashed up with Ilan Bluestone‘s Lighthouse, and the singalong chorus of “King for a Day” as the lucky ‘Push The Button’ winners gave London a slice of Blue Sky Action at a time when the sunshine outside had turned to thick night storms, rain hammering heavily on the Steel Yard roof. And so, there was still just enough time, as the trio urged London to don’t forget… forget about a thing called love.
An act capable of blurring the lines between euphoria, and overwhelming emotion, there is no dance artist as bipolar as Above & Beyond in their abilities of persuasion to conjure up magic so so strong, 10,00 people are dancing like nobody is watching one moment, and evaluating their lives through a stream of tears the next. Whipping up a frenzy of emotion, the prog-trance kings left their crowd purring in unison to the beautiful ‘Thing Called Love’ as red LED hearts began to swell across their visual backdrop amid a flurry of pink cardio-themed ticker tape.
Producing one of their most special sets of all time, Above & Beyond reminded London that – certainly on the evidence of this evening – life really IS made of small moments like this.
— Jono Grant (@jonogrant) May 26, 2018