Avicii towered above the massive crowd that gathered in Barton Hall on Saturday for his Homecoming show, presented by the Cornell Concert Commission. As the first notes of his opening number rang out, the 23-year-old thrust his arm into the air — an action mirrored by the almost 5000-strong horde as they roared their approval.
Concertgoers were greeted with the ear-splitting sirens and flashing lights of several ambulances (more E.M.S. than E.D.M.), as excessive pre-games took their toll on overly eager “dubheads.” Lines stretching the length of the venue made for a lengthy entrance process in which some neon-clad, wayfarer-sporting hopefuls had to wait almost an hour while ticket-checks and pat-downs were administered. One girl waiting outside will call sobbed into a friend’s shoulder, tragically exclaiming, “But I love Avicii!”
These hold-ups, however, didn’t stifle pre-show excitement by a long shot. Throngs of people audibly hummed Avicii’s inexorably catchy “Levels,” waving the standard glow sticks as more and more fans filtered in.
Openers D.J. AA and Radar Radar made sure that both sweatiness and exhilaration grew exponentially as clocks ticked closer to 9:30 p.m. These local electro acts were charged with the task of hyping up the already more than willing crowd — one that they performed for admirably. Between calls and responses of “Are you guys excited for Avicii?” the two spun some truly fun up-tempo mixes. One especially bubbly number was reminiscent of Unicorn Kid’s synth-heavy ballads mixed with a generous dose of dubstep — a combination that worked surprisingly well. Near the end their set, a slightly remixed version of “Gangnam Style” (the viral hit that sparked a Ho Plaza flash mob) caused total chaos, as more than a few students fervently broke into dance.
Avicii’s big entrance was accompanied by stage effects that were nothing less than spectacular. Both the raised D.J. station and the entire wall behind it erupted with white light, pulsating to the beat. Though he hadn’t brought the giant head that is his signature, the stage set-up, lighting and air cannons were beyond impressive and marked a new high in terms of Barton Hall production value.
After his big entrance, Avicii started with relatively slower tracks, clearly drawing inspiration from some of his electro predecessors — Daft Punk. These tracks seamless melted into other elated and bouncy songs, giving off the airy, carefree vibe of a beachside European nightclub.
As the set continued, Avicii sometimes strayed from his notably melodic brand of E.D.M., occasionally delving into more Skrillex-esque dubstep with dirtier drops and more grating bass. His cover of Swedish House Mafia’s powerful “Greyhound” along with his own “Fade Into Darkness” and “Seek Bromance” received cries of recognition from the crowd and a chorus of amped up air punching.
After the first hour, the beginning of almost every song was met with whispers of anticipatory “Is this ‘Levels’?” Indeed, as engaging as his songs were, after such a long set even the most pounding bass-lines were blending together and feeling a little tired. Fans seemed to cycle in and out of the stage area — dancing relentlessly, retreating downstairs to rehydrate and complain of temporary hearing loss only to return again minutes later.
Though spirits never really wavered, an hour and a half into the set it became clear that intense arm waving can only be sustained for so long. Luckily, the iconic “Levels” came soon as surrounding lights dimmed and the audience hushed deferentially. Thousands of sweaty faces gazed up as a single spotlight shone down on Avicii — throwing his right arm into the air, and looking just as thrilled as the crowd below him.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Avicii is 5 ft. 4 inches tall. This information, however, was based on an unreliable source and could not be verified by a reliable publication.