Where: Congress Theater
When: March 2nd, 2013
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.
Some may read this as a bit bold, but it’s safe to say that there are two sides to Diplo: the pre-Beyoncé era side and post-Beyoncé era side. I’ve seen Diplo in several incarnations over the last decade: backing M.I.A. for her early shows, spinning a solo set, and with Major Lazer twice as of this past weekend. The last time I saw Major Lazer, I thought the show fell short due to the absence of Switch (who worked on the album with Diplo), but at least then we were treated to a quasi-Diplo set. That’s always been the redeeming factor with the chameleon we know as Diplo — no matter what, he’s a fucking good DJ. You never know what he’ll spin when you see him — he could be on a carioca funk kick, or maybe old school hip-hop mashed up with 80s hits, or dubstep, and now even trap music. But at the Congress Theater this past weekend, I wasn’t feeling the show and here’s why...
When it comes to his recent Major Lazer sets, Diplo is barely more than a hypeman. It almost seems as if, since Miss B used "Pon de Floor" for her best single from 4, Diplo is sitting back and letting his crew do the work. If an estimate had to be given, it’s safe to say Diplo spent a total of 30-45 minutes behind the decks for a two-hour set. Most of the time, he was parading around the stage with a grab bag of cheap antics: handing out confetti cannons to the crowd, walking atop the audience in a bubble, a la Wayne Coyne, crowd surfing, waving a flag around, etc. Intermittently, Diplo would hop behind the decks to throw on his headphones and work some magic for a minute or two, but it was always short-lived. What saved Major Lazer on the first tour was that regardless if it was just a glorified Diplo DJ set, he at least was behind the decks 95% of the time. Diplo, if we don’t see you actually doing much of anything, why are you even there? You’ve already turned Major Lazer into an upcoming Adult Swim show. Why not just animate everything Gorillaz style and just be done with it?
But I digress. I still remember those early days of Diplo manning the decks for M.I.A. in sweaty, claustrophobic clubs. I recall his solo sets where you didn’t know what the hell he was going to throw at you. For a guy who hangs out in Jamaica, loves punk music, and has brought several flavors of music to American soil, you could expect the unexpected. With this legacy comes a high set of expectations, and it’s safe to say that Diplo is getting lazy with his Major Lazer shows. Not to say he’s any less of an artist, because he could shit a hit single before I could even open Ableton on my PC, but we know he’s capable of better, and that’s what we want whether it’s a solo DJ set or as Major Lazer.
Regardless of all of this, Diplo knows damn well the people came for him to make them dance, and Major Lazer did that flawlessly. But speaking for myself and hopefully those of us who have grown with Diplo over the years, the whole show came off as phoned in. The set itself was bangin’ just as you’d expect from Diplo (even though I absolutely loathed the trapped-out remix of “Get Free” since I was really hoping to hear the original version), but it just fell flat on the performance front. Hopefully, our next experience with Major Lazer makes for a more artistic expression from this genuinely honorable future legend.