When Tiësto plays a festival — in the next few months he's got Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra Europe, Tomorrowland and Made in America on his schedule — his sets last for little more than an hour. Last night, before a New York City gig celebrating the release of new LP A Town Called Paradise, rehearsals alone lasted three.
"I have eight live performers tonight," the superstar DJ told Rolling Stone in between rehearsals and showtime. "When I don't have them, I can just play whatever I want, but now every 10, 15 minutes somebody has to go on stage. It's a lot harder to plan a set."
After teenage wunderkind Danny Avila primed the crowd with some high-energy house, Tiësto, sporting a blue blazer and exuding a high school quarterback's charm, began that set by walking to the DJ booth with his music already playing. Though he opened with the cinematic "Rocky," one of the album's few instrumentals, the man of the evening soon brought out Cruickshank to sing "Footprints," a high school graduation speech set to EDM.
In between guests, Tiësto both previewed the rest of the album and touched upon older singles. All was subsumed into a four-0n-the-floor pulse, but the vocals and song structures suggested that some secret pop, rock and singer-songwriter influences might lie underneath the DJ's recent music. "Feel It in My Bones" and "Escape Me" offered a brief dive into 2009's Kaleidoscope before Matthew Koma sang "Written in Reverse" while playing guitar and tapping pedals, neither of which were audible. He would later give them another shot during single "Wasted," but in between Andreas Moe contributed his portion to standout "Echoes," the ever-cool Ladyhawke nailed her vocals on "Last Train" and an ecstatic Icona Pop lead the crowd through shout-alongs of "I Love It" and "Let's Go," jumping around the industrial venue as if it were a carpeted living room.
Pre-show, Tiësto explained that he wanted the place to feel like something in between those extremes. "We turned Terminal 5 into a club!" he joked. "This whole place looks completely different." That part was serious: Large signs changed the room's name to Club Paradise, and velvet ropes and dimmed lights reimagined the sides of the main floor. Upstairs, a portrait of the DJ hung in a giant maroon frame.
After Koma's "Wasted" encore, the set hit Act II, Tiësto playing dirty house and grinning like each mix was another touchdown pass. Hardwell, one final guest, appeared to cue up "Apollo," and Tiësto followed it by pulling out an unexpected classic of his own: "Adagio for Strings."
Trance like this is what Tiësto will forever be associated with, but the DJ isn't afraid of evolution. "When I started off, everyone was in their own area: I was trance DJ, then you had progressive house DJs. Nobody really mixed with each other," he explained, discussing A Town Called Paradise's genre-pushing influences. "Everything has changed. I think that's why it's only possible for me now to do this kind of album now — everything is possible nowadays."