In an age of dance music where the need for constant touring puts strenuous pressure on artists, it’s important to reflect and appreciate the tremendous amount of time, energy, money, and artistry that go into the live touring experience. Artists travel the world to bring their live musings straight to your local venues — all in service of art and connection and escape.
Whether it is the intimate club tour, or the massive ballroom/arena spectacle, music critics are thereby faced with the unenviable task of not only covering the event, but deciphering the best live tours that come to town. In 2018, there was no shortage of tours to hit the major dance music music markets of the US. From Miami to Los Angeles, New York to Chicago, several touring artists stood out against the pack with sets that were evocative, visually stunning, and wholly immersive.
Without further ado, Conscious Electronic presents our editorial picks for the Top Tours of 2018.
CloZee – EVASION
Upon releasing her debut EVASION LP this fall, CloZee embarked on a North American album-accompanying tour by the same name in early September. With an unrelenting 39-date touring schedule, CloZee promoted her new album with unreleased track IDs until she released the full project about a month into the tour. Along the way, she stopped at Florida’s Suwannee Hulaween and Louisiana’s Voodoo Festival, was relocated to a larger venue in Denver due to demand, and sold out shows in cities all over the continent. CloZee brought a modest live set up with four laser displays and an LED screen that centered her tribal tunes in a psychedelic storyline. After her string of New Year’s festival runs, CloZee embarks on her extended EVASION tour with five Australian dates. It will mark her first time Down Under.
Virtual Self – UTOPiA SySTEM
It’s indisputable that Porter Robinson had a monumental year debuting his third artist concept project, Virtual Self. Robinson even received a Grammy nod for Virtual Self’s nostalgic sound that fused old-school techno, trance, and hardcore with modern day big room and IDM. After his busy festival season, Virtual Self announced his UTOPiA SySTEM tour with stop in 13 lucky US cities.
The tour kicked off at New York’s Electric Zoo with two blended sets care of Virtual Self’s two alter ego producing personas: technic Angel, who would deliver techno, 2-step, and trance portions, followed by Pathselector, who brought a mix of jungle and hardcore. Complete with an absolutely eye shattering, mind bending lighting and stage production, the UTOPiA tour was a completely immersive visual spectacle. Mixed with 1990s-early 2000s dance music classic tracks, and his brand new catalogue, the show was a nod to the old days of techno aught with a new age technical spin.
Seven Lions – The Journey II
When Seven Lions announced his 40-date Journey II tour, he managed to include all the cities he missed on his already massive 2016 Journey tour. The Journey II tour stands not only as one of the top tours of this past fall, we contend that it will down in Seven Lions history for being his last great tour. From concept, to design, to live implementation, Seven Lions crafted an environment that was so fully immersive, so entirely captivating, so incredibly euphoric, and so incredibly packed, that it’s high time Jeff Montalvo started seeking out larger arena formats.
The Journey II experience was just that: a journey. Seven Lions constructed a uniquely arched storyline, complete with highs and lows, darkness and happiness, and characters to bring the crowd right back around. Coupled with Seven Lion’s expert mixing, he had the palm eating entirely out of the palm of his hand.
ZHU – Dunes
Coming off another widely heralded year, Stephen Zhu took his live performance to the next level on his Dunes tour. The cloaked enigma celebrated the two part release of his Ringos Desert LP in September with a 15-date US tour that featured an entirely new set-up that took crowds straight into the desert.
Composed of three massive dune shaped LED screens, with ZHU resting at the tallest middle point, ZHU’s three-piece act delivered a journey length set featuring all of his new and old catalogue. On the lower two dunes stood his electric guitarist and his saxophonist, with ZHU delivering live vocals for classics like “Cocaine Model” and “Faded.” The brains behind the visual spectacle was the award-winning traveling production crew, Sony’s Production Club, who ensured that ZHU’s Dunes tour would firmly stand as one of the year’s top tours.
G Jones – The Ineffable Truth
In support of his critically acclaimed debut artist album, The Ineffable Truth, G Jones took to the road on his expansive 32-date album-accompanying tour. The tour featured G Jones’ staple black-and-white visuals, pulling older songs from his past catalogue into conversation with new visual storylines from his recent album tracks. With new lighting and production elements, The Ineffable Truth tour took G Jone’s audience into a more immersive psychedelic sonic universe with simple visuals featuring the artwork of Victor Mosquera.
Beyond the visuals, G Jones has begin incorporating live elements like the keys and drum pads into his set. What G JONES has done for himself is create a highly auteuristic display of his very own sights and sounds. Sights and sounds that tug at the psyche and catapult fans into an other worldly universe. It’s a world that exists far out in outer space and also deep in their subconscious.
G Jones is also just getting started on his Ineffable Truth tour, with dates extending into March of 2019.