In a summer of music largely dominated by hip-hop and dance releases, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the most anticipated nights of this year’s annual SummerStage concert series in New York City turned into an after work twerk session. Just before nightfall, with sunrays beaming through an overcast sky in Central Park, a solid crowd turned up on Tuesday (Aug. 6) for TNGHT, the reigning kings of trap rave, and Disclosure, the princes of U.K. dance pop.
TNGHT played lead in, a job for which the duo is by now overqualified but admittedly well suited. Ever since they were was cosigned by Kanye West— first with his surprise appearance at a TNGHT show in New York earlier this year, then with production credits on his latest album “Yeezus”— Lunice and Hudson Mohawke’s two-man demolition crew has enjoyed status as the go-to duo for the biggest and brashest of tracks. It upheld that reputation Tuesday with an uncompromised set, despite the inherent contradiction in its happy hour set time.
Standing next to each other on an elevated platform, Mohawke and Lunice are an odd couple fit for a sitcom. Mohawke is tall, British and coolly composed, while Lunice, a former b-boy of Filipino and Haitian descent, is diminutive and combustible. The latter doubled as the duo’s hype man, a role one imagines he could easily transition into should the world-traveling DJ/producer thing not work out. During blown out Rick Ross remixes and fan favorites from TNGHT’s own catalog, including “Acrylics,” “Higher” and “Blood on the Leaves,” the song they co-produced for Kanye West, Lunice left the DJ deck to confront the crowd like a camper trying to scare off a bear— jumping, spinning and throwing his hands up in a hyperactive yet poised display.
For their coup d’état, TNGHT brought out another duo from a previous era, the legendary New York rap group Mobb Deep. Havoc and Prodigy brought home the hip-hop undertones in the set with performances of “Quiet Storm” and their timeless classic “Shook Ones Pt. II.”
By the time Disclosure took the stage it was finally dark out, giving the audience tacit permission to let go of whatever inhibitions it had left. The brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence, 19 and 22 respectively, were accompanied by a large diamond-shape LCD display that illuminated the stage with graphics. A 10-ft, 1984-esque animated version of the duo’s signature face outlines, complete with lips that seemed to move in time with lyrics, was the most impressive.
Though their music is made largely with computers, Disclosure follow a recent movement among electronic musicians to enhance the live show with the use of live as well as pre-programmed instruments. In this case the approach yielded mixed results, as the Lawrence brothers’ drum pad drumming and bass noodling were often indistinguishable from a song’s backing track.
Thankfully, Disclosure songs don’t need much enhancing. Each cut on the duo’s debut album “Settle,” released in June, sounds as if it were built to dominate pop radio. Singing along word-for-word, track-by-track, the audience manifested its own alternate universe in which they did.
Another distinguishing aspect of “Settle” is its overabundance of star-making turns by guest vocalists, and Disclosure revealed a pair of aces up its sleeve by bringing out two of them. Jessie Ware, the downtempo R&B and pop singer who shares a label with Disclosure in the U.K., came out in flowing black pants, a black crop top and a cut-up white blazer to perform “Confess to Me,” her rug-cutting collaboration from “Settle,” and “Running,” her own single as remixed by Disclosure last year.
The last guest was Sam Smith, another on-the-verge Brit whose formidable falsetto elevates “Latch,” the Lawrence brothers’ breakthrough single that hit No. 1 in the UK. The song was a fitting climax for the show, its crescendoing synths and wobbling bass providing one last shot of adrenaline before releasing the crowd into the night. Not bad for 10 p.m. on a Tuesday.