Written by: Jake Stevenson
He is one of the most prolific artists in electronic music. His legendary mau5trap label kickstarted the rise of Skrillex, Feed Me, and Rezz. He is true to himself from twitter takes and through his extensive album library. He is Joel Zimmerman, aka deadmau5, and his latest Cube V3 Tour is about to come to a close in February of 2020 after its debut back in March 2019 at the Miami Ultra Music Festival. My mom and I enjoyed the first of his two shows at the Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House on January 23rd.
Jay Robinson started the night off right as I heard this artist for the first time. He succeeded at getting the early crowd up and moving and building hype as more people entered to witness impending greatness.
Lights performed next, who you may know from the vocals on deadmau5’s “Drama Free,” which appeared on mau5ville level 2 and on the soundtrack to the Netflix film Polar. Lights sang sweetly, while also DJing and playing guitar on stage, with support from the talented Tyler Smyth beside her on the decks and drums.
Let me tell you, Lights was freaking phenomenal! She was having so much fun performing, her happiness was positively infectious. Jay Robinson got us all hyped, and Lights lit up the room with the bright smiles on all our faces.
Lights’ set also put the spotlight on something important: the tour’s eponymous Cube itself. When Jay Robinson first played, I thought the Cube was maybe shrouded in smoke or fog, or some other lighting trick that made it hard to see on stage. But when Lights played, and the crew used the back lights for her set, I could see there was no trick - the stage was elsewhere, shrouded in darkness, and the Cube was completely turned off. What an enticing way to tease the cube with a first glimpse at how big it actually was… absolutely massive!
And at the center of it all was the main man, deadmau5. He did not disappoint the entire two and a half hours or his remarkable set, playing all sorts of tracks from his decade-long discography. He opened with “No Problem” set to gameplay footage of him playing (and dying) in PUBG, and then played “Maths,” whose visuals consisted of a mau5 Rubik’s Cube and a certain meme. Everything about deadmau5’s carefully constructed show came together beautifully to keep us all continuously excited.
Other songs he played included his hit “Ghosts n Stuff” set to comic sans, and in proper Joel style with purposefully incorrect lyrics on display. deadmau5 always ensures the crowd stays connected and in awe of his work, whether we’re singing along to EDM classics or being spellbound by his artistic production.
At some point I forgot, but then was later reminded of the absolute brilliance of V3 - the Cube didn’t just tilt, it could open up and rotate 360 degrees! Getting glimpses of deadmau5 early on was a treat and it always got the crowd hyped when he took a sip from his Corona or a drag of his cigarette. Yet it was never a placeholder for production or meant to distract from the show - his presence at the core of the cube felt perfectly intertwined with the visuals, the lights, the music. Everything worked as one!
After patiently waiting, eventually Lights came back out to sing the still poignant “Raise Your Weapon” and the newer track “Drama Free.” The crowd matched her energy as we all raised in voice to sing along with her. The one-two punch of familiar songs made for one of the highlights of the night, and everyone fed off of each other’s positivity, pure joy, and fun.
At one point, Lights went into the crowd while singing! Nothing seemed to faze her, nothing diminished her spirit, and she sang perfectly the entire time - what an incredible live performance. At first thought you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a hallmark of the concert’s approaching end, but I knew there were still two important songs that deadmau5 almost certainly had to play out live.
The single kandi I made for the show and the shirt I had on underneath my newly bought Cube V3 Tour shirt tell of the deadmau5 song that has helped me the most. It’s the song based on a Ray Bradbury short story, deadmau5’s “The Veldt” featuring Chris James. Not only did I hear it played out live, with beautiful visuals courtesy of the Cube, but deadmau5 also blessed us with two different remixes! I’m sorry to the person behind me at The Met, because I was jumping, singing, screaming, and almost crying - and I still don’t know how I didn’t cry then.
And the one song that everyone knew without a doubt would be played was “Strobe”. The song is widespread in electronic music and iconic in its rightful adoration. There’s multiple edits of “Strobe”, like the five minute club edit and the rumored twenty minute version. But for this show, I got all of the original ten minute version and I finally cried. It would turn out “Strobe” wasn’t even his last song, as he played some songs I’ve never heard before, and finished with a brand new one “Bridged by a Lightwave.”
The Cube V3 Tour may be coming to a close, but that should not stop you from listening to deadmau5. Every album of his manages to be wholly unique while pleasing a diverse group of fans and helping to keep electronic music from stagnating. Going back and listening through his discography before I went to his Philly show really showed me how deadmau5 has continued to stay relevant in electronic music: he reinvents himself a little bit almost every album, but never compromises what he wants to do.
If you didn’t see deadmau5 on the Cube V3 Tour, sadly you missed out on a memorable performance. But worry not, he’s sure to put out something even bigger and better the next time around. Who knows what Joel might have in store for a Cube V4. Finally seeing deadmau5 live in Philly was incredible, and you can bet that whatever deadmau5 does next will somehow be cooler, more inspired, more creative, and more jaw dropping than ever before.