Gig review: Calvin Harris & Tiesto @ Manchester Phones4U Arena

By Philip Loades

Dance music went super-sized on Saturday night as two world-renowned DJs joined together to put on a huge spectacle at the Phones 4u arena for the Manchester leg of their Greater Than tour.

Electro-pop favourite Calvin Harris played alongside Dutch trance-veteran Tiesto on a stage of dazzling visuals and awe-inspiring pyrotechnics. What else would you expect when you combine such some of the biggest electronic anthems of the last decade with an arena packed to the rafters?

The evening kicked off with support from Madrid-born Danny Avila, whose heavy-hitting house mixes make him a future star in the making.

After Avila the crowd were treated to a set from the grandfather of British dance – Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong.

Tong played a 45-minute set of popular house favourites mixed with his signature style – showing Brits can hold their own in a genre dominated by Dutch powerhouses.

Keeping things at home with the Brits, after brief interlude the Scot Calvin Harris took stage to a rapturous reception at just after 8.25pm.

The set was laden with hits mostly taken from his two UK Number One albums Ready for the Weekend and 18 Months.

Highlights included the Rihanna dance favourite We Found Love, Tinie Tempah collaboration Drinking From the Bottle and a crowd singalong rendition of I Need Your Love featuring the voice of British songstress Ellie Goulding.

Fireworks and lasers abounded and the party was in full flow by the time Harris departed the stage at 9.40pm.

Dutch dance royalty Tiesto took to the stage after another brief interlude and the sound shifted up a gear, leaving behind dance pop and moving into trance territory.

Screens boasted projections of both Tiesto and the crowd, while sparklers showered the stage and confetti rained down upon the crowd. Trance may have been born in sweaty underground clubs with cheap strobes and no air con but it’s a genre that soars and rejoices when treated to the arena treatment.

The spectacular scenes were accompanied by well-received renditions of favourites Maximal Crazy, Elements of Life and Feel it in my Bones.

But it was the spine-tingling trance anthem Adagio for Strings that stole the show. The reworking of Samuel Barber’s orchestral movement from Tiesto’s 2005 album Just Be is about as epic as epic gets and remains many a trance DJs’ fallback staple. Here we had the lights turned completely off for the symphonic broody moments only to be replaced by what felt like a million mesmorising strobes when the electrifying build began. A joyous moment, for sure.

Talking about epic numbers, the DJ’s return to one of his earliest remixes – that of Delirium’s Silence – was always going to be a crowd-pleaser. It reunited the audience who were clearly split over the dance-pop beast that is Tiesto’s latest single, Red Lights.

The veteran completed his career-spanning set with an encore of fellow Dutch trance master Hardwell’s Apollo, remixed into a blistering, fist-pumping finale.

Without a doubt, the event was a triumph for arena dance – something Manchester could do with a little more often.

Picture courtesy of Ben Houdijk, with thanks.

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