Armin van Buuren
'Armin Only: Embrace'
February 3, 2017
"You know, a lot of people have asked me why I've still kept going with this radio show, after eight hundred episodes," producer/DJ Armin van Buuren remarks to a crowd of 18,000 that have packed Oracle Arena. He is referring to his critically-acclaimed trance-music radio show, A State of Trance, a show that has been on the air for the past sixteen years, where van Buuren showcases the best that the genre has to offer, both in popular and rising talent. "Well, here's why. I want everyone to close their eyes. Just listen." I turn around and everyone in the audience abides (except for that one drunk guy a few rows back. But whatever.) An anthem-like synth line rises up from the airwaves and into the air around us. I didn't have my eyes closed, but I could understand what he meant when he asked everyone to close their eyes. I could feel the music in my chest, and it was one of those rather joyous moments.
Many moments like that occur during an Armin van Buuren show. I've never seen him do a solo DJ set at a festival or a one-off show, but I've been lucky enough to see him perform his 'Armin Only' tour twice now. The first time was in support of his 2013 studio album, Intense, and it was nothing short of incredible. His show supporting his newest record, Embrace, is no exception.
An Armin van Buuren show that's simply dubbed 'Armin Only' is a bit different. Simply put, he's the only act on the bill. He 'opens', 'headlines' and 'closes' the show (when I first saw him, he came out and performed behind a curtain as the 'opener' before it dropped an hour later to reveal him. This time was just a playlist going through the venue's PA.) The first track is always synonymous with the first track on the album being promoted, so it started off with "Embrace", complete with guest accompaniment from a trumpet player and dancers. When the synth and drum lines kicked in, Armin runs onstage, clad in a silver jacket, as confetti, streamers, and a massive amount of sparklers launch into the air, with the confetti cascading down upon fans on the GA floor.
The entire four-hour show is nothing short of a spectacle. What sets van Buuren apart from his peers in the dance music community is his ability to bring in performers from other genres, and those who are able to not only play, but complement the songs with their musical abilities. He brings out a number of vocalists that performed on the album itself, an incredible number of dancers, and even European rock band Kensington to round out the show. All perform with van Buuren at different moments in the show, and every moment is highlighted by some form of pyrotechnics, cryo-jets, or confetti. Sometimes all three at the same time.
By the time the show is 'finished', van Buuren makes his way down to the front of the catwalk on the stage where a portable DJ setup, consisting of a mixer and vinyl turntables awaits him. This is the portion of the show where, during the last hour, he closes the night with what's dubbed as the Armin After-Show. "This is my favorite part of the night, everybody quiet down. Listen..." He drops the needle onto the record, and the familiar static sound that we all know and love reverberates throughout the walls of Oracle Arena. The audience cheers. "Yeaaaah! Doesn't get any better than that, does it?"