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Cosmic Opera Act II ‘Imbroglio’ review: an improvement over the original in almost every way

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Our first experience at the Cosmic Opera was less than stellar; despite having all the elements of an amazing show, it simply didn’t come together as it should have. The venue, the music, and the production were all there, but the lack of a real story line and its awkward progression left most people unsatisfied. From the moment I walked into Hammerstein Ballroom for Act II — “Imbroglio” — however, I got the sense that the event had definitely stepped its game up. A green laser hanging from the ceiling of the space displayed beams of light in all directions, a gigantic claw chandelier hung right next to it, and the bass was thumping: it was time to see if Cosmic Opera had finally figured itself out.

The stage at Act I was lackluster at best, but Act II was a whole different story. A large tufted curtain (a real curtain, not the white sheet that SHM uses) was present behind the DJ booth, lined a few stories high with flashing lights shooting off in every direction. Lasers flanked the wings of the stage and the back of the venue, displaying such powerful beams of light that they basically illuminated the entire room. Unlike most shows where the best production elements are saved for the headliner, the place was completely electrified by 11PM — but that’s not to say there weren’t some surprises saved for later.

When I arrived, Felix Cartal was on stage playing a mix of big-room tracks that had the growing crowd moving in unison. In addition to favorites like “Maximal Crazy” and “Raise Your Head,” he was joined by the lovely Polina for a live performance of their track, “Don’t Turn On the Lights.” As she threw her top hat and danced across the stage, theatrical performers appeared along side her. It was a solid opening performance and got the crowd ready for the next artist of the night: Zedd.

Soon enough there were fire dancers on stage, and the curtain fell in unison with another contortionist descending from the ceiling. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony blasted through the speakers as the wall of vertically-oriented LED screens was revealed behind the DJ booth. Unlike Act I where the set changeovers felt disjointed, the energy didn’t drop the same way this time around. Zedd’s transition into “Dovregubben” to open was absolutely perfect for the event and instantly drew me in for the rest of the set. To whoever thought up the idea of juxtaposing Beethoven’s masterpiece with Zedd’s riff on it: props.

Zedd – Dovregubben (Original Mix)

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Zedd had an amazing set filled with huge tracks that proved to be quite hard to follow. He played tons of his own productions, starting out with his remix of Skrillex & The Doors’ “Breakn’ a Sweat,” and “Shave It.” Afrojack’s “Selecta” was brought back from the dead before an inventive bootleg of “Party Rock Anthem” with “Slam The Door.” His bootlegs were on point throughout the night, including an awesome mix of “Metropolis” with Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall – Part 2”

David Guetta & Nicky Romero – Metropolis

The rest of his track selection was a mix of big-room progressive and refreshing electro. Wolfgang Gartner’s “Menage A Trois,” Pendulum’s “Salt In The Wound,” and Swedish House Mafia’s “Greyhound” were all played before the night was through. He too played “Maximal Crazy,” along with “Cinema,” “Warp 1.9,” and his own “Stars Come Out.” All the while, a gigantic “claw” chandelier spit out lights in every direction, reflecting off the strings of glittering crystals arranged in a circle around it. Unlike Act I where the chandelier was the focal point of the entire production, the claw augmented everything else going on and the LED screens and lasers kept the attention on the DJ.

Zedd – Stars Come Out (Original Mix)

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Wolfgang Gartner – Menage A Trois (Original Mix)

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Finally Fedde Le Grand took to the stage around 1AM, and Hammerstein Ballroom was thoroughly rocking. Unfortunately the mirror in place behind the DJ booth for Axwell wasn’t as prominent this time, but the organ-style platform was front and center for the night’s lead maestro. As Fedde opened with Deniz Koyu’s remix of “So Much Love,” a small army of performers took to the runways on either side of the stage and began doing the robot in unison. The general consensus was that it was a little off, but the visual effects and music were enough to make up for it.

Fedde Le Grand – So Much Love (Deniz Koyu Remix)

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I saw Fedde at Ultra a few short weeks ago, so I didn’t expect that much variety in his set, but his DJing skills and ability to command the entire venue were just as impressive. He played unknown bootlegs of “Hello” and “No Beef,” along with “Thunderstruck” and “By The Way.” Like at Ultra he played his “Praise You” bootleg, and “Resurrection” with “Together,” but he also managed to sneak in his recent collaboration with Deniz Koyu, “Turn It.” The track is a real gem, and continues my streak of loving Koyu tracks.

Fedde Le Grand & Deniz Koyu – Turn It (Original Mix)

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Truthfully, however, Zedd was almost too good, and in my book he stole the night. There were a few surprises for Fedde, however, including a one-of-a-kind UFO light from the 1980s switched on especially for his set. It spun around in a topsy-turvy fashion spitting out rainbows of color in a complete 360. Amid all the other lasers, lights, claw chandelier, and hanging half-naked contortionists, it was easy to overlook — but it was cool nonetheless and showcases CO’s attention to detail.

To say the stakes were high for Cosmic Opera Act II would be a massive understatement. After Act I’s lukewarm reception, the event needed to step up its game big-time or we feared it might not make it to Act III. “Imbroglio” preserved Cosmic Opera’s identity, but improved in almost every way possible. The stage was better, the lights were better, the performers were better — and it seemed like a more cohesive event this time around. If anything, there might been too much going on for us to take it all in, and some others remarked that at times the dancers were a little much and detracted from the music. It was definitely the most theatrical EDM shows I’ve ever been to, but still not quite an opera. But, does anyone really want opera singers at a rave anyway?

Photos: Max Levine/Cosmic Opera

Update: We’ve got an album up on Facebook from the event.

PS: Don’t forget to see our review of Act I if you want more Cosmic Opera coverage.

This post has been updated.

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