AMANDA LAFFERTY ’21
Few concerts are worth venturing all the way to Brooklyn Steel, in New York City. The venue itself is massive, industrial, and was exactly the type of place one would expect to see Nicolas Jaar, the Chilean-American DJ. The locale oozes an ambience of experimental house music.
Better yet, the British electronic DJ, Actress, opened for Jaar. The crowd seemed resistant to the opener’s set, possibly because they had yet to listen to Actress, and were really only attending for Jaar. This set was a perfect opening for Jaar, as his music is slightly more within the ambient-techno genre and was a constant experience of fast paced electronica that evokes the high quality club music popular in Paris. Actress also had a great visual set up: a metallic silver mannequin on a faux-keyboard right in the front of the stage, with two TVs on either side playing avant garde and distorted videos; the DJ himself was off to the distant right side of the stage, barely visible.
When it came time for Jaar’s set, he did what he had done with past shows, beginning with ambient synth noises. These are sounds that can’t necessarily be danced to, but they began to build the mystical atmosphere that would continue throughout the show.
Experiencing goosebumps from listening to music is a rare feeling for most, yet Jaar managed to keep this feeling continuously present throughout his set. The chills began when he played his unreleased track “American Dream” that features Jaar’s trademark of layered simple synth melodies over staccato drum machine beats. He’s a master at song progression, meaning he slowly leads the crowd into a full on dance party, carrying them along with subtle and mysterious interludes and transitions.
He managed to play nearly every song the crowd wanted to see him perform, including a variation of “Why Didn’t You Save Me.” That song began with high-pitched versions of the vocal sample, which reiterates the song title, eventually lowering to the recorded pitch. Everyone assembled in the audience was either screaming out incomprehensible heckles or moving their arms and legs in ways previously unknown to man. Throughout the concert, Jaar’s fans were fantastic in the sense that we were all incredibly happy to have gotten a ticket to his sold-out show and weren’t afraid to show it.
Then came the transition to “No One Is Looking at U,” one of the best songs in Jaar’s repertoire. Again, a slow build with a strong finish. There’s nothing more satisfying than coming to the last half of a Jaar song after hearing each of his thoughtful drops.
He continued his show with a variety of songs across many of his albums including “No” and “The Governor” from his most recent release, Sirens. The crowd went wild when he brought out his saxophone on “Three Sides of Nazareth”; the playing was eccentric, nonsensical, and wonderful. On “No,” Jaar broke out his Spanish vocals, slowly making his way to the front of the stage, microphone in hand; it was intense and mimicked a serenade of sorts.
The opening instrumental for “Space Is Only Noise if You Can See” is a beautiful composition that quickened the pulses of every listener. It is a track from his first full length album and was the very song that introduced me to Jaar back in seventh grade. Having seen Nicolas Jaar three times prior to this show, I’d never heard him perform this live and was ecstatic to be able to sing along with his deep, enchanting voice.
Yet another track I had yet to hear Jaar perform is “Mi Mujer,” which he did not end up playing and was the only disappointing aspect of his show. Jaar played for two hours, without an encore, the longest I’ve seen him perform. The show was transcendent, and left me at a complete loss for energy, a sign of any successful concert.