About 20 minutes into their second-to-last show as a group, Swedish House Mafia’s Axwell spoke into the mike. “Thank you for joining us on our little journey,” he said. “Turn on your hearts, turn off your brains.” How apt.
Headlining Friday night at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival – the first night of the first weekend of two that the 15-year-old EDM marathon is putting on this year – Swedish House Mafia have never exactly been a thinking dance-music fan’s sort of act. A fist-in-air anthem such as “Don’t You Worry Child” has all the gravitas of a Frank Stallone outtake, and build-and-drop power ballads such as “Lose My Mind” could give Bryan Adams insulin shock.
The first 20 minutes of the show were, in all fairness, a hard, sustained rush – not every Swedish House Mafia joint is a power ballad, after all, and it set the table nicely. It also set off a mad frenzy in the crowd – standing near the back, on the right, it took a full 15 minutes to exit thanks to a dense bottleneck complicated by a man in a wheelchair who was placed right in the funnel’s mouth. (He, and everyone else, got out fine.) Security was quick – and right – to put a barricade around it and disallow anyone further from entering.
The trio – Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello – visibly savored their triumphant farewell, emoting hard to a couple songs. Why shouldn’t they have? After all, they were supposed to have finished being a band last June. “One Last Tour” was the name of this jaunt – they seemed to have mounted more “final” shows than even the Who, and in a much shorter time. (All jokes about the acceleration of pop-culture cycles certainly apply here.) They’ve made fans of people who’d never heard of them prior to their breakup.
The group’s music wasn’t even the corniest thing about the Ultra show. That would be the fireworks and confetti. There was a lot of both – in much the way that each song contains multiple gushing climaxes, where the synth lines converge unto Valhalla, Swedish House Mafia weren’t content with merely setting off fireworks for one or two songs, but for a half-dozen. The fireworks came out first for “In My Mind,” about halfway through the set, but there they seemed to sputter rather than explode. Each successive time they grew bigger and brighter, and also less surprising. There was a distinct sense of, well, people like confetti, right? Well, here’s some more.
Late in the set, Axwell asked, “Does anybody remember 2012? People thought the world was going to end. But I guess somebody saved the world after all.” Guess what they played next? That’s right, “Save the World” – and as that one peaked, sparks showered down at its climax. There were also more fireworks, of course. At the end, the big screen rolled a giant thank-you list for making the band’s career, and many tours, possible. A comeback tour seems inevitable.