After more than a year on the road for his globetrotting “I Am Hardwell” tour, Dutch superstar Hardwell will release his debut album “United We Are” on Jan. 23, before kicking off an even bigger world tour under the same name.
In advance of this week’s gigs at Miami’s Klipsch Amphitheater (Nov. 14) and New York’s Madison Square Garden (Nov. 15), Billboard caught up with Hardwell in San Francisco to discuss his current tour and future plans.
How has the three-hour format of the “I Am Hardwell” tour changed your performance approach?
Normally I play an hour to an hour-and-a-half at the festivals. When I play an hour, it’s more like a showcase of what’s coming up, my hottest records at the moment, and just banging it out hit after hit. With a three-hour set, it sounds a little bit old school. Back in the day DJs tried to take people on a musical journey. That’s what I wanted to bring back with my show. When I play three hours, I am able to play my older tracks, my new tracks, and tracks I normally don’t play in an hour set because they don’t fit in there. I think that’s a great thing to show the crowd what I’m capable of.
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Are you excited to play Madison Square Garden for the first time?
Definitely. My album is going to be released early next year, and Madison Square Garden is the first show I’m going to play out all the stuff from my album. That’s kind of a big deal for me. I’ve never played those tracks out, and I’ve been working on the album for like a year and a half, so it’s going to be the first time I hear them live myself, as well as see the crowd response to it.
Which shows have stood out the most on your current world tour?
Chicago was a little bit of a downer. Halfway through my set, the whole LED production broke down. There was something wrong with the visuals. My whole technical team was there, but they couldn’t get the visuals back on, so I played the half of my set without any visuals, just the lights and music. In the end, it didn’t matter at all, as it was really good and people really loved it. I’m really happy for that.
Guatemala was definitely one of the best “I Am Hardwell” shows, if it comes to how big it was and the crowd response. I also really loved the Portugal show, which I didn’t expect at all in the beginning. I knew how dedicated Portugal is, but dance music has been around in Europe for so long that normally the crowd isn’t as enthusiastic or into a DJ concert, but that was really good. We had a really good show in Sydney as well.
How will your forthcoming “United We Are” tour differ from the current one?
It’s going to be a bigger tour than the one we just did. We’re going to approach more cities in specific countries. For example, Mexico and India are so big, you can’t just go to Mexico City — you have to go to Monterey, too. With India, when you go to Delhi, you have go to Bangalore as well.
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I’m involved with every single process of the tour, including the creative part. I was really impressed with what my team came up with in the end. We’re almost producing an indoor festival. Even when it comes to stage design and show elements, it’s going to be more like a concert than a simple DJ gig with visuals. The show will be completely live. Even when I play my own songs, I bounce the stems and synthesizer and presets into Ableton, so I’m able to recompose my songs live, and play synths and melodies live. I was on this tour for a year and half and playing out the same edit of my track every night. Well, sometimes you just want to recompose a track and re-edit it live just based on the crowd reaction. With this new tour, I’m able to make completely new melodies and come up with something new even when I’m up on stage.