If Dizzy Gillespie's signature was "Grooving High," then STEVE ANGELLO'S theme at Ocean Club Marina bay Sunday night was "venting high." The Swedish House Mafia stalwart dropped a set -- on a crowd 1,500 strong -- that lived up to the hype, and then some. He exceeded himself not by marvels of mix-boarding -- many fans accuse him of playing pre-mixed sets and swore that that was what he did in this performance too -- but by delivering a message in his music neither superficial nor out of school: that no matter how pent up your day-to-day life, no matter how frustrated, or regretful, or love-longing your soul may feel, you can conquer it all by just letting go, venting everything, and lifting your arms, body, and all up up and away.
Drum rolls led to light lullabies. Synthy swirls stopped and shape shifted to sonic twists and twirls. A rat-tat-tat of drums -- of which Angello played plenty -- led to tight piano licks, girlie voices, sentimental progressions. His sound seemed to express regret -- a sighing, vulnerable sadness -- only to wipe it all away in fast, furious drumming. Most "progressive house" music feels one dimensional; either sighing sentiment is the message, or a happy synthesized bounce. Angello employed all of these standard sounds of the genre, but there was nothing reassuringly happy or indulgently sentimental in his music. He didn't allow any one expression to last long enough for that. Instead, quick shifts, tweaked sounds, and speed drumming ripped sentiments to shreds. Like one big emotional destructo party.
There were a few house music moments in his set -- given his deep and long appreciation of present dance music's roots (and the success of his "Show Me Love" rework), that was to be hoped for. Most loveable was his sampled quote of fellow SHM member Avicii's "My Feelings For You," undoubtedly a personal greeting to his Boston fans.
What there wasn't on this night was any sort of medley of his best liked hits ("KNAS," for instance, "Rave n Roll," or the marvelous "Valodja"), nor any delving into the usual suspects of DJ performance at progressive house and trance style gatherings. Yet Angello did not avoid his current biggest tracks -- "The Moment," "The Island," and, above all, "H8rs," -- though he blended all into the broad sweep of his sound and message. "H8rs" in particular seems urgent in this season of spleen, bigotry, terrorism, and, yes, mass shootings (as a Swede, Angello likely had most in mind not Aurora but the mass slaughter of 70-odd innocents in Norway last year). No wonder people feel pent up. No wonder Angelo's set opened the doors of their souls.
The Ocean Club crowd loved it, gave their hearts and bodies to it. People raised their arms in the air. They stood on chairs. They rose up on friends' shoulders. They reached high, high and higher and they cheered and, for two hours, at least, freed themselves of the fears and boxes that we currently cringe in.