Ricardo Villalobos Live @ The Olympia Review

Words by: Stephen Flynn
Posted: 8/4/10 11:17

Ricardo Villalobos  @ the Olympia reviewedDublin clubbers are a fickle bunch, with few Djs of genuine class outside of the techno upper classes ever coming close to, or selling out shows in the city. With only a select few capable of mustering the sort of illicit crowd responses, spine tingling memories and all round fervent atmosphere which Chilean/German minimal techno don Ricardo Villalobos has come to encapsulate as his trademark, even Dubliners couldn't withstand the charms of a man renowned for his marathon sets and a slew of productions which have come to define the past ten or or so years in electronic music. Villalobos then, is a Dj who needs no further introduction to regular readers of these pages. Having flown in to Dublin amidst a wave of excitement for what was to be a special one off gig in the capitals famed Olympia theatre, a promising night seemed in store.

Anticipation and expectancy were rightly high for this one, with Villalobos' last visit to Irish shores, his 2008 set at the now almost defunct Tivoli theatre having gone down in Dublin clubbing folklore as one of the capitals most fondly remembered and most talked about nights of the past decade. Naysayers questioned the enthusiasm of a man who'd played Germany's Time Warp festival the previous weekend, reckoning a 3 hour slot in a dingy old Dublin theatre amounted to little less than an easily earned few thousand for a man more used to playing without limitations. Others grimaced at the €25 ticket charge, unreasonably reasoning the Dublin gig would act as little more than a showcase for Villalobos' recent (admittedly unspectacular) solo productions. And how would the Olympia sound system handle a guy more used to plying his trade in the Berghain or Fabric? As it happens, not bad at all.

A few early teething issues aside, the specially constructed sound rig actually held up with aplomb, with the Olympia's high ceilings and rising dance floor acting as the (almost) perfect backdrop for Villalobos' talents and array of blending sounds.  With it's array of boxes and balconies, tunnels, a high ceiling, two well lit bars, a vastly sized dance floor and all round lavishly decorated interior, the Olympia made for a truly fitting and inspiring change of venue. But would the Dj on offer bask in the theaters warm glow and play to fit the occasion, having also played in Birmingham and Leeds the two previous nights?

With the aforementioned Time Warp festival less than a week previously, the man in question could be forgiven for seeming somewhat lethargic. Not that he seemed tired. In fact, quite the opposite seemed to be the case, with Villa gesticulating wildly behind the decks like a modern day Mick Jagger, seemingly ploughing every last ounce of energy in to what was a truly spectacular set. Kicking off at 11.30pm, the crowd were also guaranteed at least three hours of dance floor mayhem. While such a start time may seem no big deal to those of you living outside Ireland, it does make for a nice change from the hordes of technically limited Djs who arrive on stage in Dublin at 1am, fully aware that the countries stringent licensing laws mean they'll be forced to shut up shop at 2.30am.

Such limitations are of course, usually alien to a Dj whose sets are rarely dictated by insignificances such as time. What Villalobos did do however, was grant the passionate and up-for-it Dublin crowd with an absorbing account of his Dj'ing capabilities. Immediately rushing in to a pounding 4/4 beat, Villa toyed with the crowd in a manner that few others can, all the time presenting us with a fitting showcase of both his craft as a producer and his technically adept Dj'ing skills. Villalobos continued in a predictably eclectic vein, with a set featuring everything from house classics (Gusto - 'Discos Revenge')  to bonafide techno anthems (Lemon 8 - 'Plus 8') to contemporary anthems (MMM's 'Nous Somme'.) With Villalobos being a character renowned for never playing the same set twice, it did come as some surprise that many tracks which littered his set at Time Warp reared their head again, with a small minority of the usually unreceptive Dublin crowd picking up on the fact. Still, it took little away from what was a truly spellbinding performance.

The nights biggest roar however, was saved for 'Enfants' - Villalobos' 2008 hit, which still seems to go down a treat whenever he wrestles it back out of the box. At this stage, Villalobos seemed to be having as much fun as the crowd below, who he'd by now seduced in to whooping and cheering his every move. Occasionally hammering wild slabs of bass over a track which is missing even a bass drum seemed an astute move, and the majority of the girls in attendance seemed to welcome the respite afforded by the tracks Latin vocals. As the night wore on, the atmosphere was spine tingling at times, and even for a Dj who regularly plays the cream of the crop club wise, my hat goes off to the promoters who did a truly spectacular job at not only changing the venue at short notice, but also fitting an impressive light show and a sound rig, which, despite its limitations to those at the back of the audience, more than satisfied those at the upper echelons of the crowd and finally got the thumbs up from Villalobos. For a man so renowned for constantly exploring the complexities of sound, it's worth noting that this is no mean feat. 

Shuddering to an unfortunate halt around the 2.40am mark via what can only be described as melody-infused-comedown-music, it's fair to say most of the crowd would have stayed until breakfast time had Villalobos not been forced to stop. The combination of the crowd, the setting and of course the Dj, made the night stand out as bar none the best Dublin has seen in a long, long time. At a time when economic depression has gripped the country, Dublin, put simply, needs more nights like this.


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