Concert Review + Photography: SebastiAn at Congress Theater (Chicago)

Zeds Dead (Toronto, Ontario), SebastiAn (Boulogne, France), Diplo (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
September 3rd, 2011
Congress Theater in Chicago, Illinois

Gallery: SebastiAn at Congress Theater

There’s two ways to make noise in a crowd. The surefire way…shout at the top of your lungs or to varying degrees to which people turn around, notice you, then return to whatever they were doing as long as you can hold their attention. The other…absolute silence, soaking in the moment until those words of wisdom transcend from the mind to the ears of those around you. Similarly, France’s SebastiAn has remained quiet on his brief séjour in the States; performing less than a handful of interviews. Contradictory to say the least when you are as established in the touring circuit as either his fellow countrymen, Justice for one. But when you’re opening for Diplo at the Congress Theater, you’ve already achieved one successful aim: you’re not going to play to an empty theater. In fact, Congress was packed to the gills. Bon, first goal achieved. Next? Capturing the audience’s attention.

SebastiAn is not a newfound, careless electronic artist. Six years at Ed Banger and remixes of Uffie, Bloc Party, Sébastien Tellier and most recently the Beastie Boys featuring Santigold’s “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”, the Boulogne-born producer could be considered calculated in how his image is crafted. With two imposing vertical banners draped on either side of a massive podium, equipment hidden entirely, Sebastian Akchoté encased the next hour revealing to the home of house his vision of electro. On stage, he remained still, relatively emotionless to the audience in preference to letting his leaden beats do the one-way communicating.

And damn…were they heavy…for the entire set. Gone was Mayer Hawthorne, the dance floor funk of “Arabest” or anything indicating his current Prince influences (interview with Spinner). Instead you had “Jack Wire” shifting stutters lulling people into synth-dug troughs and “Doggg” turning the knobs towards a heavy frustration that teeters so close to the long-forgotten industrial music of a decade ago due to its searing guitar in the production. The entire set hearkened a newfound Trent Reznor, in my opinion, but with a foundation in collective movement and dance instead of solidarity in angst. Case? You get moments where SebastiAn’s digitalized face is tearing in anger with a backdrop of France’s colors, then moments later he’s drawing us back to pure reality with “Kindercut”‘s driven bounce.

SebastiAn is about to drop into Los Angeles and San Francisco the upcoming weekend. From the beginning of his set with “Prime” to the precise, calculated movements, SebastiAn very well may convince America there’s more to French music than the big, established three.

In all honesty, the mec is talented. I’d like to see more production work from him, as he did with M.I.A..

SebastiAn Tour Dates:
9/9 – Los Angeles, CA – Avalon Hollywood
9/10 – San Francisco, CA – Mezzanine

Thoughts?