Three months ago Nero brought New Yorkers into 2012 with a late night set that started in the early hours of January 1st. Three months later, the heavy hitting UK-based duo returned to the city, this time at Roseland ballroom, for a bass fueled live show. Along for the ride is future superstar Dillon Francis, whose latest tracks have dropped by a virtual “who’s who” of DJs. But before he took the stage, we were eased into the night with sets from New York’s Sleepy and Boo, who finally got some crowd movement by dropping Daft Punk, and Girls and Boys resident Alex English, who was eventually joined by Tjani for some moombahton tracks that segued nicely into our opening act.
Francis, who had his own “I.D.G.A.F.O.S” emblazoned on his DJ booth, brought the crowd intensity up several notches with his unique blend of moombahton and dubstep. I look at Francis as one of the reasons moombahton has entered the mainstream, and he did not disappoint in that regard, dropping several of his signature songs like ‘Masta Blasta’ and ‘Que Que’. He did not spare the crowd of hard hitting dubstep to get the crowd ready for Nero, and got everyone involved for both versions ‘I.D.G.A.F.O.S’, which has seemingly become his signature song. Towards the end of his set, Francis even dropped a relatively straightforward few minutes of Fatman Scoop’s ‘Be Faithful’ to give the venue a real college frat party attitude.
As the crowd chanted for the headliners to appear, a stagehand pulled the black tarp off an enormously hidden object, and the virtual captains chair for this spaceship ride was revealed. The duo emerged from a massive object, consisting of speakers and old school television sets stacked on top of one another – dwarfing Dillon Francis’ previous set up. Daniel Stephens and Joseph Ray, who along with Alana Watson as a vocalist comprise the band, each have their own set up facing away from each other, and occasionally convene in the middle. As the lights dimmed and we were exposed to ‘Doomsday’, a hard hitting electro track that feels like it is meant to be played in stadiums, it was clear that this would not be your average ‘rave’ experience. The duo commanded the crowd from atop their podium, seamlessly weaving through their biggest hits, remixes, and live variances in their productions to keep their tours unique.
As the lights swirled around the crowd, and the television flashed images and song song lyrics, singer Alana Watson hoped on stage, using a floor planted speaker as a make shift stage, and started bursting out the lyrics to ‘Guilt’ in her trademarked high pitch voice. Hearing Watson’s vocals live are one of the treats of seeing Nero in this type of setting, as her voice stays very true to the source material while still conveying a level of raw, live emotion. She would disappear and return on and off to perform some of Nero’s biggest songs like Promises, Me and You, and Must Be The Feeling. This is what makes Nero a relatively unique act – they create radio worthy hooks for Watson to belt out over synths that can vary from 80′s electro pop to modern drum and bass – but then follow it up with bursts of wobbling bass that could destroy the foundation of a room at any moment.
This tour was supporting the band’s debut album, Welcome Reality, which was described as a concept album taking place in the year 2808, musically being almost a soundtrack to an apocalyptic year in the future. In that sense, this tour successfully conveys that theme with a a very appropriate stage set up, bass lines that sound like they could shatter planets, and a very electronic, spacey vibe that feels more at home in a staged set up than a club. The album itself is fantastic, and with seven released singles – the most recent being ‘Must Be The Feeling’ – the set is chock full of hits in-between rage out moments of bass filled bliss. The sole composition that could be credited to someone else, besides Nero’s own remixes like Calvin Harris’ ‘Feel So Close’, was Knife Party’s ‘Crush on You’ remix, which was played intertwined with Nero’s original – a practice that seems to be really effective.
Other than that, it was all Nero – and I don’t think anyone seemed to mind. Their sound can seemingly span multiple genres, so even though you may think an hour and a half of dustup may get repetitive, it doesn’t. Between the Alana Watson’s vocals, the blends of genres, and the variances from the original compositions, Nero is definitely a show to see live. They are one of the few acts that really give off a rock star, stadium vibe and they would not be out of place playing a larger venue than Roseland Ballroom. Overall, extremely solid show with top notch support from Dillon Francis.