Gig review: Armin van Buuren, W&W and John O’Callaghan @ Warehouse Project

By David Keane

Without a doubt, Warehouse Project’s Friday night line-up was the north’s biggest trance event of the year, barring perhaps Creamfields (and that’s only if you don’t mind being knee-deep in mud).

Boasting a list including Europe’s most exciting duo of the moment W&W, Ireland’s iconic John O’Callaghan and even a few of Manchester’s own shining lights in trance, from the up and coming local Garuda favourite Craig Connelly to Radio One In New DJs We Trust pick Jordan Suckley.

And that’s before even mentioning the king of trance, five time winner of DJ Magazine’s DJ of the Year… Armin van Buuren. (And soon to be the first DJ in space, believe it or not…)

It was almost a sad fact that the line-up was so stacked – inevitably there were clashes. Why everyone’s crammed into only one trance night this season is unknown; Gareth Emery and the remainder of his Garuda cohort are glaringly absent following their Boxing Day bonanzas in previous years. But ho hum – let’s not dwell on the what-ifs.

What we did have was a fairly run of the mill warm-up set from Jochen Miller – never managing to impress in the few times MM have caught him in the area but never bad either. Perhaps it’s the awkward set times that do him the disservice… the main room was hauntingly empty, even approaching 22.30.

Where was everyone? It was supposed to be a sold-out show.

Those who were there crammed forwards for when Dutch duo W&W took to the decks, opening what was to be one of the most blistering and exhilarating sets imaginable.

From their first singles such as Mustang and Dome on Armin’s Armada label back in 2007/08 it was clear the pair were destined for great things – and Friday’s set only proved they’ve found their place. It was a far cry from their February 2012 performance at Manchester’s Venus, which while excellent, has clearly been built upon, polished, matured.

The youthful exuberance was still there in abundance (the benefits of having two on the decks, allowing one to always be engaging with the crowd was used to its maximum effect) but now it was matched by a clear ear for just how to build a soul-shakingly, vibrant set, lurching from their pulsating collaboration with Armin D# Fat to their rabidly infectious latest single with Hardwell Jumper, from their own mix of Krewella’s Live for the Night to Hardwell’s Apollo.

Homage’s to their own favourites were still there  the boys’ mix of Delirium’s Silence never tires – as well as new numbers like Lift Off.

Come midnight the main room was finally full. It turns out many who had only just arrived in time for the king of trance to take the stage had been queuing outside for the last three hours. The enhanced security procedures following the tragic events of last week left queues winding half way through Trafford.

Without a doubt, safety should be paramount – but you have to wonder whether pat-downs are ever going to stop people taking drugs into the venue. Unfortunately there was still one hospitalisation.

Note to future WHP-goers: if there’s someone on early that you couldn’t bear to miss, get there before nine or you might not hear anything this side of midnight.

On the subject of hearing things, the volume on the night cannot go unmentioned. While leaving with bleeding ears isn’t on anyone’s ‘to do’ list, being able to chat comfortably with those nearby you is clearly a sign that the volume is a few decibels too low.

At times the vocals were entirely drowned out by those singing round you. And some of them were in not state to be talking never mind singing…

But anyway, it was midnight, it was time for what most had come from across the country and beyond for. Armin was here.

The lighting as the first few beats began was phenomenal. More lasers, LED screens, smoke and fireworks adorned the main stage than ever before. True, it’s a long way from what the Warehouse Project was meant to be all about – an underground clubbing experience literally taking over a warehouse – but it’s been moving in this direction for years and when the final product is as electrifying as this, it leaves little room to argue.

Perhaps it was after seeing such a breath-taking show from W&W, perhaps it could be that two and a half hours is just that fraction too long, but being frank Armin’s set stagnated a little in the middle.

Of course, there were more than a few flashes of brilliance. Tracks from his new album Who’s Afraid of 138 and Sound of the Drums had that effortless beauty that has become synonymous with Armin and some of his mash-ups had the now visibly pulsating venue in rapture.

Yet the world’s biggest DJ can’t be excused for the few lulls that came around the middle of the set, even when eventually picked up by crowd-pleasing favourites like Paul van Dyk’s Don’t Deserve You and Dash Berlin’s World Falls Apart. There were simply some moments that Armin sounded just a little flat.

But by the end of the set the likes of This is What it Feels Like had a sea of hands in the air, these moments were long forgotten.

John O’Callaghan rounded off the night in the main room with a much more fast-paced techno-laced set than we’ve ever heard from him before, with only a small handful of his ethereal Big Sky-esque tracks sparsely dotted about to break up the tempo.

Perhaps this was why a fair few Callaghan fans found themselves migrating to the second room to catch the more uplifting sounds of Menno De Jong.

All in all, an epic night of trance made into something truly special by a pair who must represent the future of trance – W&W. Well, for those who were lucky enough to see them anyway.

Picture courtesy of Odi Jin, with thanks.

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