Having only seen Hayden James play outdoor festivals, it was hard to know what to expect coming into the final show of his national tour at the Metro Theatre on Thursday evening. Sure, he could amp up a crowd of loose yet dedicated dance music lovers at Listen Out, but it would be interesting to see how he engaged with a crowd in a more intimate setting.
The Metro looked more packed than normal as we found space to watch the headline act, and it was clear from minute one that James has an incredibly strong core group of fans who hang off his every word and action. Within five minutes, the whole theatre was filled with smoke and Hayden came out on stage; creating a shadowy figure getting the whole place pumping from the start.
From the start the intensity was incredibly high, and there was perhaps only two or three times when he paused between songs in the whole set. The atmosphere was like an enormous club, with spectacularly trippy lights throughout and James pulling out banger after banger and the crowd cheering every new track.
James assured us that there would be plenty of new music, but as is often the case with producers who’ve only released a limited amount of music; it was really a performance that was built around featuring two or three songs. Permission To Love was amazing early on – really standing out from the pretty constant BPM that James stuck with for almost the whole night. He worked in some hardware nicely throughout the evening, but unfortunately during his big tracks his engagement with his hardware was somewhat absent.
Hayden James has got to be one of the best DJs going around at the moment; not just in Australia but in the world. His mixing, his transitions, and his mood setting were positively faultless; but despite the use of hardware and having Touch Sensitive come up and play bass during a few tracks – it felt so pre-planned that it felt more like a DJ set than a live set. The fact that we couldn’t see his face for most of it due to the disproportionate use of that smoke machine didn’t help his crowd engagement either.
Not that any of that worried most of the punters; and didn’t Hayden James know how to amp them up for his big finale. He teased a few seconds of Something About You perhaps three or four times; every time sending the crowd into raptures. When he finally dropped the track the atmosphere was electric; and there is no denying that it us a CHOON.
He came back for an encore, finishing up with his latest track Just A Lover – and all of a sudden it was over. Hayden James is undeniably a talented producer and a phenomenal DJ, and credit where it’s due for his efforts to make his act more engaging, but he himself would probably admit that there’s still work to be done, and with his potential he’ll undoubtedly go on to much bigger things in the future.