It’s often said that you should quit while you’re ahead, however for the two-man electronic supergroup of Porter Robinson and Madeon their farewell-cum-introductory tour feels more than a tad premature. Both twentysomething producers of vibrant electronic music that feels more significant and coherent than anything else you’d tend to find on a festival main stage, the Shelter era follows their respective debut album cycles – Robinson across Worlds, Madeon on an Adventure – and, when launched with the track of the same name last August, it became all the more baffling that they hadn’t consummated the partnership any earlier in the decade or so since meeting on production forums whilst most others their age were still in potty training.
With both parties renowned orchestrators of intricate live experiences that weave samples around their own live vocals and instrumentation, putting the show on the road was – after commissioning a six-minute anime short film as a music video – the next logical step, however the temporary nature of this marriage of kindred spirits permeates every aspect. One vision. One song. One tour. One night in the United Kingdom. One mini-album with a pack-in flag, piano version of ‘Shelter,’ and Blu-ray of the anime, sold only in Japan because apparently the appetite for incredibly cool things is non-existent out west. With London’s sell-out night the first of seven on the February stint that precedes their final performances together at Coachella in April, such was the penchant for queueing that there was even a line to spend £30 on a t-shirt with the ‘Shelter’ single cover.
Rather like a more fantastical and inviting version of ODESZA’s staging, Robinson (stage left) and Madeon each face the crowd from behind a right-angled setup of assorted laptops, keyboards, Novation Launchpads, and percussive implements. Whilst both took turns attempting to handle vocal matters – Madeon leading ‘Shelter’ and bringing a jittery funk taste to Kyan’s portions of ‘You’re On’; Robinson duetting as on Worlds with a synthesised Vocaloid character named Avanna – it was the 2,300 in front of them that did most of the work, cheering with each inference of melodic introduction and nailing every word or note shift bar the gibberish-ish result of Google Translate searches that became ‘Flicker.’ For its “wwwwww” vocal chops and the more conventional lyricism of main set closer ‘Goodbye To A World,’ the presented lyrics (and Madeonic runes) on the displays behind them provided a welcome respite from a middle act (‘Technicolor’ / ‘Divinity’ / ‘Innocence’ / ‘La Lune’ / ‘Sea Of Voices’ / ‘Natural Light’) so intensely luminous that it’s entirely plausible that the sun might feel threatened.
Throughout, charisma was served generously by the longtime friends watching each other’s deft doings in awe. Robinson, who only took his hefty coat off four tracks/medleys in, hunched with hair lolloping merrily from his beanie like the ears of a beagle. Madeon, whose hands alone became known at 17 for ‘Pop Culture,’ a live 39-track mashup of everyone from Alphabeat to The Killers, embraced the shuddering bass capabilities – particularly on his fiery ‘Imperium’ – to claw firmly at the sky and negotiate with snappy vigour. In tandem, with source material curated from the same secluded spring of precision and wonder, not a truthfully dry eye was released into the night.