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Afrojack Brings Few Surprises To Navy Pier

By Robert Martin in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 10, 2014 9:00PM

Watching Afrojack play a sold out show at Navy Pier, it was hard to shake the feeling that this wasn’t SNL's “Davvincii,” but a world-famous Dutch artist. The similarities were staggering.

Buckets of money. Check. A headliner pushing buttons. Check. Bass drop after bass drop. You betcha.

Two months have passed since Andy Samberg brought his full fledged mockery of dance music to "Saturday Night Live" and still the clip is spot on. Sure, it’s not a fair representation of every DJ that steps foot behind a turntable, but it’s a definite metaphor for 26-year-old Nick van de Wall. A household name in EDM, Afrojack embodies the amount of money currently fueling the industry. He dated Paris Hilton and ranked seventh in Forbes’ list of the highest paid DJs. Afrojack is the kind of modern rockstar that divides his time between Ibiza and Las Vegas. The stops in Chicago are fewer: a festival appearance here, a $70 Navy Pier set backdropped by the skyline and a flurry of fireworks there. Van de Wall is a cult of personality in the world of thump.

For all the frills, Afrojack’s show in the afterglow of Independence Day felt calculated. Massive video monitors played out in perfect sync with the entire set. Every exciting transition into the next big house track or bass melody was met with a perfect accompanying animation or visual cue. Following along with the set, it was clear that very little was being done live - in the moment. Say what you will for DJs that take to a stage and push play, but there’s a definite lack of soul in it. The tracklist was continually solid going beyond house music to feature multiple genres accented by excellent hip-hop breakdowns. Despite this, the producer’s use of Martin Garrix’s “Animals” in the set was only a further reminder that the song is now a dead horse.

Saturday night, Afrojack felt like yet another piece of the Pier. An EDM spectacle for those waiting for the fireworks display or the next water taxi to Shedd Aquarium. The show was littered with the kids who populate Chicago’s summer festivals, but more than a few curious passerby scalped tickets and found themselves in a decidedly less family friendly environment.

As a venue, Navy Pier is a mostly untapped resource. The view from the east end stage setup is worthy of more than a few snapshots, and the lot is perfectly suited for concerts on mild summer nights. The sound was muddy at Afrojack, but a live band would fare better. Despite an all too familiar set from the Dutch powerhouse, it was refreshing to see promoter’s “React Presents” branch out into yet another venue for an experience that can’t be mirrored at any other concert hall in the city.