The hype for Sensation's first ever show in Canada was massive. From the video trailers that hit the Internet earlier in the year to showtime on June 1st, I can say without hesitation that all expectations were exceeded and more. The whole production of Sensation Canada blew me away: from the lights, the massive stage, the lazers, the dancers, the pyrotechnics, water fountains, and the 360 degree rotating DJ booth, made this night absolutely spectacular. Each DJ created their own unique set as the night progressed towards the end of this epic 8 hour event. Read on and find out what happened.
Even though the first DJ wasn't supposed to take the stage until 8 pm, the doors opened at 6 pm and already the place was filled with music along with electricity in the air created by hardcore fans buzzing over the stage. But I would make the argument that the party really started hours before as the streets were invaded by throngs of fans all dressed in white creating excitement all around them. All of the partygoers had an upbeat energy with each step as they made their way to Rogers Centre, and it was intoxicating. It felt like we were all united for a single purpose as if we were all part of the same culture. There was a definite sense of unity and respect among the Sensation attendees that night.
The first DJ up was Mr. White. With the exception of his glasses, Mr. White was painted from top to bottom in white as he is for every Sensation event around the world. He played a fantastic house music set that oozed groove and sexy vibes. Mr. White also brought the crowd into his world with plenty of crowd interaction and energy. It was in this moment that the first of many effects during the whole Sensation experience were unveiled. The production slowly made itself felt with greater impact as the night went on. Mr. White's set was enhanced by the lighting that switched from purple, to red, blue, green, and white.
After an hour and the crowd properly warmed up, it was 2000 and One's turn to take over. This veteran DJ from Amsterdam used the opportunity to bring a more dark and sinister vibe to the stadium as he added some techno to the mix. The sound was amplified by the reverberating power of the bass as the volume was heightened. During 2000 and One's performance, 22 water fountains were turned on across the stage and darted up to 10+ feet in unison and created an awe inspiring experience.
The next act to appear was the Dutch duo Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano (SJ & RM). This was their first big time production show in Toronto and they certainly took full advantage of the moment, as their set was one of the musical highlights of the night. What made them stand out was the driving and relentless tribal drums that dominated their performance from start to finish. It was as if they transported the crowd into a more tropical setting with drums that united the crowd in a rhythmic dance. I felt the duo had a razor sharp focus on how their set would fully develop within the limited time they had. It was also during SJ & RM's set that we started hearing the more recognizable vocals from popular recent tracks such as Zedd's “Clarity”, the acapella to Afrojack's and Steve Aoki “No Beef” and Florence + The Machine's “Spectrum (Say My Name)”. But these vocals lasted only for a few fleeting moments as SJ & RM quickly returned to the rhythmic drums. Classic tracks were also used including Kaskade/Deadmau5 collab “Move For me” and Master's At Work - “Work”. The stage production was also taken to the next level when the lasers were turned on as well as giant LED balls that changed colour were tossed into the crowd. It was a beautiful sight. Ten female dancers came out within individual balloons that surrounded their whole torso which eventually popped in a synchronized manner.
Following SJ & RM's set was a spectacular show called 'The Mix'. The Mix was a music show that synchronized an explosion of light, lazers, pyrotechnics, water fountains, confetti, and fireworks. The music selected was a range of classics to more recent tracks. Hearing the tracks that first got me into electronic dance music such as “Born Slippy” by Underworld or “Smack My B*tch Up” by Prodigy was a rollercoaster experience that brought on plenty of goosebumps. Never had I heard tracks like Hardwell's “Spaceman” and the classics work so well together. They even tossed in “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana for good measure. 'The Mix' united all electronic dance music lovers together as it had something for both old school veterans and newer fans to rally behind.
Fedde Le Grand was next to take the stage and started off with an unfamiliar tune with a guitar riff that transitioned into one of the most recognizable tracks of 2013, Daft Punk's “Get Lucky”. The crowd immediately recognized the guitar sounds of Nile Rodgers as it filled the stadium. Fedde's set was a mix of his own tracks like “So Much Love” and others such as the classic “Satisfaction” by Benny Benassi. But the last 15 minutes of Fedde's set is where he kicked it up another notch with a remix with Deniz Koyu of Digitalism's “Zdarlight”, and his 2011 mega-hit of Coldplay's “Paradise”.
I'd like to say something about MC Gee, who was Sensation Canada's designated MC of the event. Normally I am not a big fan of MC's at EDM events as I found them too unrestrained in needing to interject before and after every drop in an endless push to pump up the crowd. But I thought the MC'ing of MC Gee was on point for the entire night as he always came in at the right times to great effect.
Next up was Eric Prydz, who is famous for marching to the beat of his own drum. Known for playing predominantly his own tracks, he unleashes many private edits, bootlegs, and IDs that have never seen the light of day unless played at one of his events. These decisions have helped him to be the producer and performer that he is today. One of the highlights of his set was “Power Drive” which brought out the biggest crowd reaction. It even had the power to lift the crowd from the bleachers onto their feet to dance, fist pump, and cheer. Another favourite was an edit of Green Velvet & Harvard Bass “Lazer Beams” which I have enjoyed so much hearing live in its original form from other sets in the past. By this time, the full power of the Sensation production was on full display.
Otto Knows closed the evening with a banging set filled with plenty of peak time tracks that started off with his own version of Dada Life's “Kick Out The Epic Motherf***er”. What quickly followed was Dirty South and Alesso's “City of Dreams” that initiated a sing along from the crowd. Other highlights included Axwell's recent release “Center of the Universe” but the big draw was the mashup of his own hit “Million Voices” with One Republic's “Apologize” that had the crowd chanting in unison.
At the end of night, MC Gee got on the stage for the last time and asked the crowd to stand up and make some noise if they wanted to hear one more track. The enthusiastic crowd cheered as Otto Knows rewarded them with Swedish House Mafia's “Don't You Worry Child” to cap off the night. As a final farewell, MC Gee asked the faithful whether they would return to see Sensation Canada if they came back the same time next year. As you might have predicted, there was a massive positive response from the crowd.
Overall Sensation Canada blew out all of my expectations and more as the production was nothing like I'd ever seen in my life. It was so impressive that I'm very tempted to give the party of the year status to Sensation Canada right now as they created incredible memories for all of those thousands of fans that attended. If you didn't get the chance to attend this amazing event, make sure to mark your calendars as we all might get to experience the same kind of magic the same time next year.