The first time I ever saw Above & Beyond was at Beyond Wonderland Bay Area in 2014. It was a great set, and I could see just an inkling of what made them so special and separate from any of the other acts that graced the stage. But of course, it was a festival event; it wasn't their own show.
Just a few months later, the UK-based trio made a two-night stop in San Francisco, CA at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, with dates for both nights selling out nearly instantaneously the moment they went on sale. By happenstance, I managed to secure a photo pass and capture a truly wonderful evening. THIS was the event that showcased what Above & Beyond was really all about. Their fan base is unlike any that I've ever seen before, more dedicated and loyal than nearly any other dance group I've seen in today's industry. Their songs are gorgeously crafted and could move mountains with their anthemic and memorable vocal melodies.
The group are slated to perform at The Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA tonight and tomorrow, but expect to see the group in a much different form than usual. This will not be your typical Above & Beyond show; this is their music in a whole new form.
Every so often, the progressive trance trio (comprised of Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness, and Paavo Siljamäki) will take a number of songs from their catalogue, restructure them, and perform them in an acoustic setting. They already released their first collection of these songs, dubbed Acoustic, back in 2014, and they are gearing up to release their second acoustic record (Acoustic II) on June 3, 2016.
While I have never been to an Above & Beyond acoustic show, I do know a bit of what to expect based on videos that I have seen, tracks I have heard from the past acoustic album, and stories I have been told by colleagues that have attended events like this in the past. Do not expect any DJ decks, and don't be prepared to rave; this is a chance to truly absorb and understand each track.
Now, with that being said, expect to hear completely different renderings of tracks we've previously heard from the trance group. If you hear a rock band perform an acoustic song, there's a good chance it can be incredibly similar in sound and beat structure to the original. Taking a dance music track and putting that into an acoustic setting seems like it could be a near-Herculean task, depending on how much of the original song structure is changed. Expect to hear some of your favorite tracks reworked, but in the best way possible.
Hearing a track in an acoustic setting, whether it was formerly a rock, hip-hop, country, or dance music track, is a completely different ballgame. You're hearing the songs in the most bare, stripped down form possible; it allows the vocals to stand out, sometimes even more so than on the full-band collaborations we're all used to. Given the fact that the group have previewed four songs from the upcoming acoustic record already, ("Hello", "We're All We Need", "No One On Earth", "Blue Sky Action", and "Another Chance") there's a good chance we'll be hearing at least a few of these at tonight and tomorrow's show.
As I stated before, I've never been to one of their acoustic performances, but there is something that's telling me that we should expect to feel something truly powerful. Music has the ability to make us feel in ways that we never thought possible; it's almost an other-worldly...thing? Spirit? I really don't know what you would call it. All I know is that music possesses the ability to make us as people feel things we can't even completely describe. If you listen to the below track, a song that I can guarantee they'll be breaking out in their set over the next two nights in Berkeley, and you don't feel anything, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you should get that checked out.
For more information on Above & Beyond, and their two-night stand at Berkeley, CA's Greek Theater (THURSDAY NIGHT IS SOLD OUT) please visit www.facebook.com/aboveandbeyond
This has been another Shameless Promotion.