Nero (DJ Set)

The Music Box


See also: Photos from Friday night's set.

Better than… Listening to Nero's new CD.

Earlier this month, Cherrytree Records released in the U.S. the hard copy of Nero's debut album, Welcome Reality. The U.K. electronic dance music duo's work had already been available in other markets, and several songs from the album were already huge club hits. But the U.S. release has been followed by a tour here, which drew a full house to The Music Box last night. It was a long night, but one thing was clear — listening to Nero DJ (in this case, just Joe Ray) — was more exciting than listening to Welcome Reality, which is already pretty interesting.

In fact, it's the rare dance music album that is both packed with hit singles and sounds like a cohesive work, conjuring images of a dystopian future marked by ethereal female vocals and eerie beats. The DJ set illustrated that those sounds are rooted in our present-day reality.

Despite all the bright colors and wild dancing associated with today's dance parties, there's a distinct sense of discontent running through the music. Take dubstep, which made up a healthy portion of the DJ set. Its distorted bass lines and its awkward beats sound tense. Combined with the big, rave-friendly choruses of tracks like Nero's hit “Promises” it's a powerful juxtaposition.

A good chunk of Welcome Reality made it into last night's set, and the singles sounded particularly foreboding. “Reaching Out,” which features Daryl Hall on vocals, came across like a piece of brooding electronic pop. “My Eyes,” which should be released as a single, recalled goth and industrial club jams of the late 1990s.

Last fall's hit, “Crush on You,” essentially a remix of The Jets, lost any of the cute, nostalgic appeal it might have had when paired with Skrillex's ominous “First of the Year — Equinox.”

That the set concluded with an enormous response to System of a Down's song “Chop Suey!” was testament to the angst present. And if that weren't enough, the encore was Porter Robinson's libertarian dubstep anthem “The State.”

Personal bias: I like dance music that's not afraid to brood.

The crowd: Identical to what you would see at a Skrillex or Deadmau5 show.

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