Avicii’s beat goes on — and on and on


Swedish DJ and producer Avicii performs at Jiffy Lube Live. (Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post)

Like the demolition of the last Blockbuster video on Earth, it begins with an explosion of ribbons that look like recycled VHS tape and a BOOMPH-BOOMPH-BOOMPH-BOOMPH that will not stop for 120 minutes, because this is dance music designed to monopolize the senses and bully the brain, making it difficult to separate one’s thoughts, which is exactly why thousands have gathered at Jiffy Lube Live on a Sunday night to surrender to Avicii, a 24-year-old from Sweden whose stage name sounds like a luxury timepiece and whose fashion sense rivals a typical college sophomore’s, making him the superstar DJ next door, certainly not that creep-o who made headlines last week after a gig in Boston where 36 kids were whooshed off to the hospital, probably due to dehydration from doing too much Molly, a news story that has imbued tonight’s proceedings with a vague aura of danger, or maybe just a frisson of uncertainty, Altamont meets Abercrombie, but after looking around, the only thing truly amiss is all the empty seats, presumably vacant because parents read about Boston and said “Nuh-uh,” which, on the bright side, means we all have a little more room to dance, room that isn’t completely necessary considering how Avicii’s martial rhythms enlist the arms, the knees, the ankles, but never the hips, inviting fans to skip rope without the rope, and please be careful not to drool while gazing at the massive video screen behind Avicii’s elevated booth where Technicolor animation flashes continuously, big and beautiful and blinding, like God’s screen saver, which implies that God is busy doing other things, or perhaps He has theological beef with Avicii’s version of Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child,” a song that promises “Heaven’s got a plan for you,” a promise that gives the kiddos permission to no longer fear death, inspiring them to double down on their physical abandon, a vibe that holds until 9:41 p.m. when Avicii left-turns into less melodic turf, suggesting that his set has been organized in three parts, like a Greek tragedy or a hockey game, only this is much louder than sudden death, loud enough to make you feel completely alone in the throes of communion (a metaphor for life on the Internet?), and voices keep coming, and voices keep going, and one sings about “Waiting for someone like you” and another asks, “Can you feel my heart’s beating so fast?” and it all sounds like it’s being sung by androgynous elves, or androgynous robots, or elfin robots of no particular gender, and Avicii lip-syncs along, hyping up the crowd with his Spider-Man hands, bobbing to the relentless 4/4 boom-boom, even at 10:14 p.m. when it’s easy to feel defeated by the avalanche of it all, but the senses remain heightened, (you smell Garnier Fructis in the breeze), while the mind begins to drift (you begin cataloguing every brand of shampoo you’ve ever used, when you switched, why), and eventually, friendlier melodies begin snapping together like so many Lego bricks, first during a sparkly Rihanna remix, and especially during Avicii’s even sparklier 2011 hit “Levels,” and just as he starts bringing out his most gorgeous stuff, he grabs the microphone to declare “You were amazing!” and the music stops, but not really, because the beat is still bouncing inside your skull, an aural illusion, a paracusia, a paranormal heartbeat, not unlike the bobbing sensation one feels after swimming in the ocean, a sensation that will end in roughly 24 seconds because — ta-da! — Avicii doesn’t believe in attention spans and has returned for an encore that includes “Wake Me Up,” a radio-hit hybrid of country twang with dance floor va-voom, similar to when the KLF persuaded Tammy Wynette to sing “Justified and Ancient” in 1991, back when Avicii was only 2, before electronic dance music was called “EDM,” before guys like him could become millionaires with budgets for lasers to blast out into the Prince William County airspace and sound systems capable of killing smaller species of birds, but when those woofers finally go mute at 11 p.m., it feels like a gift, and you’re grateful for the quiet, but equally grateful for the noise, grateful to a Swede in a baseball cap who spent exactly two hours doing everything in his power to remind you that you were alive. | chris.richards@washpost.com

Chris Richards became the Post's pop music critic in 2009. He has covered D.I.Y. house shows, White House concerts, go-go and Gaga.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Entertainment