Photo Credit: Lexi Lambros for Lavo NY
Armin van Buuren is the #1 DJ in the world, and everyone knows it. Picture this: The cool composure of Lavo NY’s glittering and notoriously well-heeled crowd–a sea of suits, stilettos, and slinky dresses–collapses in mere minutes and turns into a frenzied field of camera phones leaping to the air, as the opening strains of Armin’s intro mix of Andrew Rayel’s How Do I Know filter in and the man himself takes the decks.
Last night was his first night in NYC after once again being crowned at the top of the DJ Mag 100 rankings for his fifth time overall after being unseated by David Guetta last year, so it felt like a victory lap—and rightly so, considering that this gig and the dates that follow in his touring schedule are being hailed as the “DJ Mag Tour.”
Lavo’s intimate single-floor nightclub, located in the basement of a corresponding daytime restaurant, was bursting at the seams with attendees pressed in like sardines. The crush was not confined to the dancefloor by a long shot; you’d have been hard-pressed to find a space empty enough for you to see your own feet, but who can blame the people who wanted to attend Armin’s latest stop in the city? It was a curious mix of long-time trance devotees who gushed to me about their loyalty—it was her 16th time seeing Armin live, one girl told me—and others who frankly didn’t have any idea who was going to be playing but knew that it was a momentous night. But as Lavo staff and dancers cut a line through the crowd, hoisting lit sparklers and champagne bottles in the air around a large sign reading “Congratulations Armin van Buuren, DJ Mag #1,” the excitement in the venue shot through the roof.
Armin’s set was definitely a crowd pleaser; he paid homage to the long journey of growth & tactical style changes he’s taken as a DJ and producer over the past decade and longer with a few surprises. Scattered among the set was a veritable wall of vocal tracks and newer productions like I’ll Listen with favored vocalist Ana Criado, We Are Here To Make Some Noise, the Myon & Shane 54 mashup of BT’s The Emergency, Norin & Rad’s The Gift, a remix of Dash Berlin & Emma Hewitt’s perpetual crowd favorite Waiting. One highlight for me was the beautiful Future Disciple remix of Solarstone and Aly & Fila’s Fireisland; as the break cleared away to reveal the beautiful guitar lead which I haven’t been able to get out of my head for weeks, the night improved drastically for me. The most pleasant surprise, though, was a remix of Rank 1’s Airwave that I think is the bootleg that’s been dotting his sets cryptically for the last few weeks.
As the second half of the set filled out with more instrumental tracks in a good balance of energy that Armin has clearly mastered over the years—Ferry Corsten collab Brute, Markus Schulz & Ferry collab Loops & Tings (which made a couple of older tranceheads in front of me cry out “Ligaya!” much as I did when I heard it), and more—the line between casual trance fan and total devotee blurred further and further as the night went on. This is testament to the skill set that’s gotten Armin to where he is today. No matter where he plays and who he’s playing for, everything ends in trance.