Is big really better?
Dutch superstar DJ Tiesto is like Marmite, you either love him or hate him. David Pollock asks the Scottish clubbing fraternity why
‘For some dance music fans, Tiesto is the antichrist,’ said Mixmag earlier this year, going on to point out that ‘his new album (Elements of Life) is arguably by-numbers trance that does little to update the genre from the template set in the superclub boom days of the late 90s.’
The era of the superstar DJ is a thing of the past, and disc jockeys have been re-consigned to the clubs, where some might say they always belonged. Yet the Dutchman Tijs ‘Tiesto’ Verwest (the Tiesto part is a form of his childhood nickname) still thunders on, almost alone in his quest to bring electronic music to aerodrome-sized crowds.
Although a producer in his own right, only in his native Holland do his singles chart highly. His countrymen really do love him. He was voted the 40th greatest Dutch citizen of all time, and named an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau (it’s kind of like a knighthood). In May 2003, he became the first DJ to sell out a stadium gig on the back of his name alone, a 25,000 capacity event at Arnhem’s Gelredome (home of the city’s football team Vitesse), and went back for a two-night residency 18 months later.
Since then he’s played stadiums across the world, including New Year’s parties in Las Vegas and the opening ceremony of the Athens Olympics in 2004, introducing literally billions of viewers the world over to the joys of trance. Yet, what does this pricey (for the customer too at 40-odd quid a ticket), champagne and supermodels extravaganza have to do with clubbing as we know it; the joy of hearing otherworldly music in a dark and relatively intimate basement that’s not much more than a taxi ride from home?
‘Tiesto’s obviously a superstar, but his music holds no interest to fans of techno and house,’ says Dave Clarke of Slam in Glasgow, canvassed alongside other Scottish club promoters for his opinion ahead of this article. ‘It’s something separate altogether, but is still a phenomenon on its own terms.’ It’s an opinion echoed by many.
‘The buzz about Tiesto started with those huge shows he sold out in Holland,’ counters Ricky Magowan of show promoters, Colours. ‘Let’s face it, he had his face on one million Coke cans around the country at the time, and everyone around the world heard about it through the internet and wanted to be a part of it when he started his world tour. So it is good marketing, definitely. But there are four articulated lorries coming over from Holland for the show so it’s a huge production with a large and impressive visual aspect. It’s really just something a bit different.’
Yet what sort of people go to a show like this? It can’t just be, for example, Colours regulars?
‘No,’ says Magowan. ‘It’s people who know and like music, but people who want to spend the money on a proper day out, rather than just a regular club. When you look at the fact that the last Coloursfest sold 10,000 tickets and Tiesto’s sold close to that on his name alone, it shows you how excited people are about this. In Britain, only Fatboy Slim could come close to those numbers for a solo show’.
Ingliston Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, Sat 30 Jun