From Madrid to Mumbai, cities around the globe are still buzzing in the wake of Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance 600 World Tour. Having touched down on ten of its twelve world-wide destinations, the expedition lowered the landing gear last week in preparation for its final two shows. In top form, they came fully equipped with all the makings to celebrate the 600th incarnation of Armin's famed A State of Trance Radio Show.
As usual with Armin, the bar was set high. Heading to New York, not only were concertgoers expecting massive sets from the top trance DJs in the world, but ones that would rival the mayhem the Expedition Tour had been broadcasting for the last month. March's final days saw Armin and his Armada Army close the Ultra curtain to end Winter Music Conference in Miami's Bayfront Park. Ten-plus hours of live video had brought us the most stacked lineup in ASOT's history as the Expedition conquered Miami on a bittersweet Sunday, leaving us to wonder how on earth it could get any better.
As Armin was about to prove, it certainly could.
Madison Square Garden—appropriately dubbed the World's Most Famous Arena—is the city's midtown mecca that has been home to countless cultural and historical icons throughout its storied existence. Seeing its first EDM foray a mere two years ago, MSG quickly sold out in preparation for the second DJ act to ever grace its stage. The lineup for the event featured trance's biggest names: Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten, as well as rising stars W&W and Alex M.O.R.P.H. And of course, Sir van Buuren himself.
None of the artists on the bill served as a warmup act, and as such, the night started big and ended bigger. Alex M.O.R.P.H. opened the evening with his intro edit of Darth Vader's Theme, making his presence known on a dark, trancey scale. And where else could it be more appropriate to premiere his new track called New York City than, well, New York City? Between his chilling vocal mix of An Angel's Love and his own rework of The Expedition, Alex's set was fire and established the tone for the night: go big or go home.
Dutch duo W&W was next up and didn't miss a beat, playing a set peppered with the progressive and electro house flair that they have come to define their sound by. As a genre, trance is great at borrowing the best elements from other genres. W&W takes this principle to heart, a notion they especially prove in their live sets. The pair dropped D# Fat, beaming as they foreshadowed the evening's main event, and kept the crowd moving to this year's unofficial ubiquitous Miami anthem, The Code. Despite a minor hiccup with the speakers malfunctioning, W&W brought ever increasing energy to a hyped up crowd as Madison Square Garden evolved into one giant dance floor.
After two massive hour-long sets came an hour and a half of New World Punx, a newly formed duo comprised of trance legends Markus Schulz and Ferry Corsten. Needless to say, expectations were high. The trance heavyweights had seen back-to-back sets in their history collaborating with one another, but it was in the Garden that the moniker saw its official world premiere. What followed was a riveting and explosive ninety minutes of choreographed slaying—as Schulz himself likes to put it. Fantastic DJs and producers alone, the duo took their strong suits and crafted a set rooted in classic trance, but with enough of a modern and hard-hitting feel to appeal to those looking for it. And appeal it did. The crowd was thick, energized, and captivated. Highlights of the set included their own Mammoth Forever mashup, and Fisherman and Hawkin's epic anthemic Apache. The amped up crowd sang their hearts out to Ferry's Not Coming Down, and under the flickering lights and dancing avatars they got their full dose of what the new world had in store.
Then, of course, was Armin. There's not much to say about Armin that hasn't already been said. The world's number 1 DJ (five times over) consistently delivers amazing sets that reinforce his rank and remind us how powerful live music can be. But with Armin, there's more than just music; there's something palpable and unique, something that's hard to identify. Maybe it's his command of the crowd, or understanding of music as it relates to us. Maybe it's simply being in the presence of a legend. Or maybe it's his genuineness. Understanding his character and value adds to the excitement and experience in a meta way that leaves listeners musically enthralled and emotionally fulfilled. Once you've seen Armin it's easy to understand why he's had the success he's had, why he's been knighted, why he's stolen our hearts, and why—despite his own worry—we'll all still feel the same way in ten years time.
Armin's set in New York was nothing short of legendary. Under the vibrations of an orchestral opening he appeared, teasing the crowd with a string-filled symphony reminiscent of a certain Adagio. Unsure if what they were hearing was merely a mirage, the captivated crowd raised their hands into the air to welcome the legend, drowned in a sea of white and purple light. As the song built, Armin smiled, and safe in the breakdown of Arnej's intro track the crowd began to move with the unstoppable force of pounding trance beats.
The whirlwind journey that followed started at 128bpm but didn't stop there. Dropping some tracks from upcoming superstar Andrew Rayel, MarLo, and of course many Armin originals and edits, Armin brought concertgoers an unforgettable night. A request made by a fan on an episode of ASOT a few weeks back led to the regular appearance of Armin's epic mashup of Photographer's Airport and Armin's classic Shivers. Not only did this bring the tempo up to 138, but it also spread shivers throughout the sold out crowd. Cries of "how could it end this way?" peppered the venue long after the track—and the night—had ended. A poignant question indeed, as nobody wanted the night to end. Showing his gratitude, Armin left his fans with one last treat before he bid them farewell, bringing out vocalist Trevor Guthrie to put on a chilling performance of their latest single. Proudly beaming, Armin held the Trance Family flag high for the world to see, and saluted the crowd for making the evening possible.
Anyone who was a part of the night—whether they were at the Garden or tuned into the live stream from around the world—will look back and remember it as nothing short of groundbreaking. And with high quality audio and video capturing every minute, we can relive the night over and over. As the Trance Family can attest, this music is an endless source of frisson. So get on YouTube and re-watch the magic from New York City. While the hair on the back of your neck stands up, close your eyes, and let your mind take control. We'll see you the next time the trance king rises.