A sea of neon tanks, frayed clothing, bandana-clad foreheads and excited faces flooded the path from Grounds to the Downtown Mall Thursday evening. The occasion? Derek Smith, known more commonly by his stage name Pretty Lights, was performing a sold-out show at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion. Following an opening by producer Paul Basic and dubstep DJ 12th Planet, Pretty Lights captivated his audience as he dished out his unique brand of soul-infused electronic beats.
Your average University student is no stranger to Pretty Lights. In addition to hearing his music online and at parties, students had the opportunity to see him perform live a year ago when he put on a show at the same venue. Those who attended that earlier concert in addition to this most recent one can attest to the fact that little has changed in either the delivery or content of a Pretty Lights show: Considering that Pretty Lights hasn’t produced a significant amount of new material in the past year, most of the song choices for the Thursday concert were exactly the same as last year’s lineup.
But two notable differences from the very similar set list were two of Pretty Lights’ new songs from this year: “You Get High” and “We Must Go On,” both of which were well received by the audience. Returning concert-goers — of which there were many — by and large did not seem to mind the lack of variation from last year’s musical selection. Pretty Lights executed his unique brand of electronic dance music very successfully, creating an almost trance-like atmosphere for the hundreds of giddy attendees whose arms and glow sticks were perpetually waving in the air.
It’s not hard to figure out what makes Pretty Lights so appealing to so many people. The multi-genre dimension of his music attracts a wide variety of listeners who find his combination of downtempo styles accessible, in terms of both pure listening quality and danceability in a concert setting. Additionally, much like last year’s show, Thursday’s concert also featured a lot more dubstep-style songs than Pretty Lights’ overall body of work, thereby appealing to a genre exploding in popularity among the college-age demographic. Smith also did a great job of frequently talking and connecting with the audience, further stimulating the excited fans crowded under the Pavilion awning.
Of course, as was the case last year, the centerpiece of the Pretty Lights concert was Smith’s lightshow. Playing on the theme of urbanized modern society, the stage of the Pavilion was lined with intricately luminescent miniature skyscrapers of varying heights to create the sense of being in a downtown environment. As you would expect, the lights of the towers corresponded with the beat and progression of the music, creating a very appealing environment in which to absorb the music. Behind Smith, who played from center stage, was a large screen displaying visually complementary images, including clips from music videos of the songs. It seems almost impossible to separate the Pretty Lights experience from his light show, which ranks among one of the best of any electronic artist currently touring.
Overall, Pretty Lights performed well. Although some attendees who hoped for more change and innovation with this year’s concert setup were frustrated, most concert-goers seemed exceedingly pleased with the show as a whole. The Pretty Lights concert set the bar quite high for the impressive docket of concerts scheduled for the Pavilion this semester.