Since witnessing ZHU’s debut performance at HARD Summer in 2014, I’ve seen him seven subsequent times. Each time, whenever he’d make the decision to perform, there was always an intent to grow, to elevate, the performance. When he played at the Shrine in 2016, it was for the GENERATIONWHY album and the first tour he introduced his guitarist and saxophonist. By the time I saw him at Global Dance Festival in 2019, he’d done away with the veil and mystery of the project, his music able to speak for itself.
Now, in 2021 for his DREAMLAND 2021 tour, the show has evolved to the point of full-on live spectacle. The combination of over five years of stellar music, a brilliant live production, and an immaculate vision has taken ZHU’s live show beyond the typical CDJ and LED-wall motif — although those are still present.
Beginning with “Lost It” from his new album was a no-brainer. Such a bombastic opening to an album could only translate equally well to a live setting, and it set the tone wonderfully for the rest of the night. Beyond many of his hits throughout the night, ZHU also peppered in live edits and covers of songs like “…Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears, “Creep” by Radiohead, and “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. Though DJs are no strangers themselves to throwing in songs that aren’t necessarily “EDM,” doing so in a live setting definitely had a bigger impact. You could feel the energy from the crowd when, for instance, the opening “dun dun dun” chords from “…Baby One More Time” came into focus.
The live setting also benefitted the set in the way that ZHU was able to move from softer, slower moments like “Blue Dream” to intense, grandiose tracks like “Dreams” with Nero or “I Admit It” with 24kGoldn, both banner moments from the set.
Beyond all of that was simply the way ZHU carried himself on stage, with the swagger, musicality and pop sensibility of The Weeknd combined with the tastemaking and fashion of Kanye West and the confidence of someone who’s been doing this for a decade longer than he has.
Bottom line, if you were on the fence about buying a ticket to a show on this tour, do yourself the service of hitting that “purchase” button.
@ZHUmusic last night was a vibe ✨ pic.twitter.com/QiJsBY8yS2
— bbbunny🌻 (@elaineajay) October 12, 2021
I guess Monday’s aren’t so bad after all 🔥 @ZHUmusic pic.twitter.com/FvgSPXnpEx
— ɛɦɦɦʍǟƈǟʀɛռǟ (@Maca_Smallz) October 12, 2021
this was so perfect, still can’t get over it @ZHUmusic 🌌 pic.twitter.com/RnVq9h6CeE
— 😵💫 (@gustxvohernxndz) October 12, 2021
Photo via Joey Vitalari