By E.R. Pulgar
Taking the Terminal 5 stage for the second of two sold-out shows, SBTRKT took the stage around 10:45 p.m. Donning one of his trademark modernist tribal masks, the DJ was greeted by an overexcited crowd, noting that “[they were] already louder than last night” to uproarious applause: then, the set began.
The energy shift in the crowd was palpable: all the excitement suddenly became subdued, the crowd swaying mindlessly to his music. Stunning as it was, it felt like SBTRKT’s performance relied more on visuals than on his actual music.
SBTRKT spent the majority of the show within a circle of instruments: xylophones, electric drum kits, keyboards, and synthesizers. His fellow instrumentalists, an overactive drummer and a mysterious percussionist who had tribal lines painted on her cheeks, seemed more passionate than the actual act. Despite running around so much and being so versatile, the intense focus almost took away from the actual performance; it felt cold, distant, an artist playing for himself.
His use of guest vocalists was effective: Ezra Koenig collaboration “New Dorp, New York,” in particular, brought the kind of eclectic and upbeat energy the concert was missing. Unfortunately, Koenig did not stay onstage, and the set subsequently died down. This is not to say that watching SBTRKT play around with real instruments as opposed to just “pressing play” like any other DJ was not refreshing and impressive, but his over-reliance on the instruments left much to be desired. It was a hole that not even the guest vocalists or instrumental solos could fill for very long. The concert dragged at times to the point that concertgoers in the dead center of the pit were on their phones.
However, a particular standout was “Look Away.” Played in conjunction with the screens behind him, which displayed close-ups of a model who seemed to vigilantly watch the audience, it was the zenith of the entire set. During the transition into “Osea,” which occurred simultaneously with the previous song’s crescendo, a green fog began to be released. Despite his distance from the crowd, SBTRKT and his fellow musicians truly shone as they created this cold, ethereal world for a few moments.
It was a night that could have had so much more potential, being headlined by a producer of that caliber. The show’s real champion proved to be twenty-one year old rapper GoldLink. It was during his songs that the crowd got most excited. To their dismay, they were pumped up for what was ultimately a lackluster show. The second night need not be mediocre compared to the first, although this is always expected of artists. The truly great ones make every night feel like the first; SBTRKT, unfortunately, seemed to have left it all on the floor during the first night. Must have been one hell of a performance.
E.R. Pulgar is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org