End of An Era: Swedish House Mafia Play Last Gig Ever
Swedish House Mafia ended it all where it started on Sunday night: on the Main Stage of the Ultra Music Festival, three years after they first played the flagship dance music event.
"Good evening Miami. My name is Axwell, this is Sebastian Ingrosso and Steve Angello — and we are still the Swedish House Mafia,” said Axwell at the set’s start. But just 90 minutes later, the mega-group that put EDM on the pop music dial and the arena rock map would be no more.
The DJ/producer trio announced its plans to split up in June of last year. While no finite reason was given, they referenced a desire to try something new, and fear of stagnation, in their recent Billboard cover story. They’ve been traveling the world since January as part of the aptly-titled One Last Tour: a whopping 52 shows around the world - including sell-outs at Madison Square Garden and a five-night stint at Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco - for over one million fans overall. That’s not counting the millions participating via social media, and the roughly 250,000 who watched the Ultra Live stream.
The Ultra Main Stage played host to One Last Tour’s massive set, including the LED-wrapped, three-tier DJ booth (which had been visible throughout the festival during other artist’s sets, like a constant reminder of what was to come). Their set was an abbreviated version of the tour shows to fit the fest’s shorter time slot, but if fans knew what to expect, they certainly didn’t show it. Though most of the attendees probably knew most of the songs, each drop elicited a reaction like they were hearing it for the first time.
The excitement started before the group took the stage, as UMF’s six other stages began to empty and throngs of tired ravers began to head to the Main. After a set from Ingrosso protege Alesso, BBC Radio 1 host and longtime SHM supporter Pete Tong took to the mic at about 9:25 PM to hype the crowd. He asked three questions, each of which drew a thunderous response: “"Miami, are you here? Are you ready to rave? Do you love Swedish House Mafia?"”
Finally, at 9:30 on the dot, the stage came to life and began displaying the group's "We Come, We Rave, We Love" intro sequence. The crowd went wild when they caught the first glimpse of the three Swedes in the booth, their images projected on the giant video screens flanking the stage (for the benefit of the many fans too far away to see them). A group with only six singles obviously has to play them all.
The set began with "Greyhound” - a track created especially for SHM’s international Absolut vodka campaign - and perfectly timed CO2 bursts and laser flashes to start things off with a major bang. They went on to play a mixture of SHM music, plus that of its individual members and their respective record labels: Ingrosso's "Calling (Lose My Mind") came early in the set, and Steve Angello's mega-hit "Knas" was mashed with Axwell and Henrik B's remix of Adrian Lux’s "Teenage Crime." A high point in the set was the group’s remix of Coldplay's "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall,” which built into the final release and biggest hit of their short career, “Don’t You Worry Child;” another inspired mix was the gradual transition from “Miami 2 Ibiza” into the iconic melody of “One.”
It was easy to sense the emotional nature of the show, with Axwell taking the mic several times to thank the fans for their support and shouting out specific members of the production team making the show possible. He called it a "special night," and likened it to being their "last day in school."
In the final moments of the 90-minute set, Axwell asked if the crowd if we could "save the world one last time together" before vocalist John Martin appeared on stage. He sang live renditions of the group's tracks "Save The World" and "Don't You Worry Child" as things were coming to a close with a huge crowd singalong; a powerful ending.
The dissolution of Swedish House Mafia as a three-DJ juggernaut marks the end of an era in dance music. Whether it will be the so-called “EDM” era, or simply this particular group’s journey, remains to be seen. (Perhaps not even that: Many at the festival joked that they were ready for the 2015 reunion tour.) But no one can deny their impact: They were the first dance act to sell out the iconic Madison Square Garden, commanded the attention and sponsorship of major brands, rejected the notion that big artists need big albums, and forged a deep relationship with fans, further evidenced by the pathos attached to their retirement. They carved their own path, right down to its final destination.
Before things ended at Ultra, Axwell took one final opportunity to remind everyone that "we came, we raved, and we fucking love you." The mantra became the theme of the tour, and served as a fitting closing statement from a group that has accomplished so much, achieved so many firsts, and decided to step away from the game while they were still on top.