World united by music – The Best Of Armin Only
Written by Katrina Merca on May 17, 2017
Last weekend people from all over the world gathered in the Amsterdam ArenA for a magical “The Best Of Armin Only” experience – two sold-out shows, more than 80 thousands attendants between both days, 2 hours of warm-up, 4 hours of show and countless memories. Not every artist in electronic or Trance music can organize something this big, but seems like for Armin Van Buuren it wasn’t a problem.
Before the show: why should I go?
You may ask – why was it sold-out so quickly? Why did people from 97 countries decide to pay a lot just to come for this event? What was so special there?
The answer is – the “fanbase” Armin made during his career is not just huge, but also loyal. It changes, yes, but, in my opinion, it will never die.
I also consider myself as a part of this so-called Armin “fanbase”, because if it weren’t for him, my life wouldn’t be the way it is now. I started following him since Mirage came out in 2010, and somehow that brought me into Trance. My first Armin Only (AO) show was Intense in Antwerp (November 2014), and it was also my first event, where I met my first Trance friends. It impressed me so much that I promised myself: if another AO show was announced, I would go for its premiere.
Less than one year later it was a time for the Embrace album to come out, and exactly one day before that the next tour was announced. Naturally, I kept my promise to go there, even if I had a lot of difficulties. I enjoyed Embrace in Amsterdam a lot (May 2016), where I met with my old AO friends and made new ones. Shortly before I was planning to go to the same show in another city, Armin announced the next show, to celebrate his 20 years on the stage, bringing artists from all the previous shows together for one, bigger one. The date was reserved, special “Fan tickets” bought, and even my work agreed to schedule my business trips to America for me to make it to Amsterdam on May 13.
The only sad part was the extra show, which was added as the first became sold out, was announced for the day before, not later, which meant – “Fan ticket” holders wouldn’t be the first ones to see everything. As a fan, who got show tickets two weeks before the official sale started, it was a little bit frustrating. But, at the same time, there were some advantages, as I was sure that show should be better, provided it should have been the original one, and it was also recorded and broadcasted live, which means: now I need to look for myself on the video! #giggle
Another important thing to remember about Armin’s shows – they are not Trance shows, they are HIS shows, which means – he is allowed to play what he desires! (If you are more curious, I would suggest watching Episode 4 of his new documentary “Armin Van Buuren Is Mr.Perfect” (link), where this topic is discussed.) As an artist, he wants to have variety in the music he produces and plays, so it can be everything starting from instrumental/orchestral to hard style and psy. Perhaps he is losing some if his former listeners because of that, but it also helps to bring new ones into Trance. This situation leads to conclude: if you are a Trance music lover, you may be a little bit disappointed, but if you are Armin’s fan, you will never feel let down during his shows. Lots of memories and past moments are brought back during his AO shows, for instance, when he asks the crowd if it knows about a show called A State Of Trance: maybe you think “How can anyone not know about it?“, but at the same time – some of them didn’t know before he asked.
The day has come: the beginning and the show
I had been waiting for May 13 for months, so, when it finally arrived, I couldn’t wait to get to the Arena. The day before me and my friends also went for Sied van Riel’s birthday party in Panama, so after few hours of sleep, having pancake-lunch with other Trance Family Latvia friends (and not only) and short walk in Amsterdam, we headed to the event location. I had seen some pictures of Friday’s show, so I was even more excited and wanted to go inside as soon as possible. Even if I knew that I will have to wait for three more hours till the real beginning of the show, but, anyway – few minutes after doors opened, we were inside. As usual – pictures, merchandise (another wristband to my collection!), lockers, meeting friends, looking for the best spot by the stage with other fans and – waiting.
As I mentioned, from the door opening till the beginning of the show there were three hours. For some they could be boring, some used this time to buy merchandise/food/drinks, some used this time to talk. But why was there a need to wait for three long hours? And now imagine – almost 40 thousand people with limited amount of entrances and security check.
It’s just fair to everyone, like a guarantee that everyone will have enough time to get inside before the show starts. Three hours, two hours, one hour, half an hour, going to toilets in advance (with a plan to see every minute of the show #giggle), 10 min, 1 min, 20 seconds, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… 0!
Overture… A mix of all the main tracks of all the previous AO tours joined into a magnificent new piece… I needed only some seconds of Susana singing “Desiderium” (opening track from Mirage album) to feel the first tears of happiness on my cheeks, because, as I mentioned before, it was my real beginning of Trance journey. Embrace, Intense, Imagine, vocalists, musicians, dancers performing in the air… The show was destined to be epic!
Every vocalist performance was different. Some were singing almost perfectly, some – not so much, but if you ever sang for a crowd as massive as that one, you should know, how difficult it can be. All the Embrace show vocalists had their part in the show (making it all look like revamped AO Embrace show), adding Gavin DeGraw in the end, also Christian Burns to remind his part in Mirage, same with Laura Jansen, Lauren Evans and Trevor Guthrie about their part in Intense.
However, I am sure that many were waiting to hear Susana performing “Shivers” live and, of course, the angelic voice of Sharon Den Adel singing “In and Out Of Love“, a track which made Armin so famous not just among Trance lovers, but also among usual radio listeners around the world.
And who remembers the drum-battle of Koen Herfst and Niles Vanderberg from Kensington during “Brute”? And Eller Van Buuren going wild with his guitar, as always? Don’t know about the others, but I am used to seeing good things about everything, that’s why I have no words to describe how I enjoyed every performance.
The short vinyl set also made the tears to show up in my eyes again, reminding me of old times when my brother was listening to Tiësto and Armin, sharing his favorite tracks with me, such as “Serenity”, at a moment when I couldn’t completely understand why he loved it so much. Many years later I realized that sometimes you need time to hear the beauty of some tracks. It was worth it to move from the front to the middle through the crowd just to see these few old tracks of Armin, which brought him such a success.
And don’t forget “Ping Pong”! A simple track, produced in a few hours as a joke, but which became a highlight of AO Intense tour in 2014. Back then, there were some yellow AO balloons dropped to the crowd, and my friend had one from the two and a half years old show. You could also see the blue ones from the last Intense shows. I am glad (and probably many others) that this part of AO could be relived once again, this time – with huge pink balloons. (Curious, how many of the fans were able to save them for the future #giggle)
The last hour of the show was more about uplifting and even… hardcore/hardstyle? There were also hypnotizing acrobats performing during “Exploration of Space” and fantastic dancers during Armin’s “Old Skool” reworks – “Dominator” and “The Ultimate Seduction“, with guys not being shy to show their well-trained bodies and girls flaunting a very seductive look. And what can be better for going crazy as playing collaboration with Vini Vici and Highlight Tribe “Great Spirit” not once, not twice, but three times, all of them – different?!
I had seen Armin performing many times before, but I’ve never seen him being so happy during all the set. I can’t think of anything better that the reason of your presence at the show being so joyful and smiling all the time, transmitting those same emotions to you and all the listeners! Perhaps it was just me, but I couldn’t stop smiling while looking at Armin, as I enjoyed sharing my happiness with the crowd, all the artists and, of course, Armin himself, who was communicating with everyone in the arena and around the world with his music.
Photo credit – Armin Only
Was that “THE END”?
The show ended… way too soon, but history was made and recorded. The concept, the idea of the show, it was all a complete success: great result for a 10-month work, but – what’s next?
There are rumors that this was the last Armin Only show, but, knowing people and even Armin, you will never know for sure. After being a DJ already for 20 years and still loving his fans so much, I don’t think that he will stop, but, maybe, it will be something different or under another name (but this is just my opinion).
Fans are still waiting for a Gaia album, which has been in progress for many years already, so – maybe there will be something new coming from that project? Or should we wait for another artist album in 1-2 years? Let’s give Armin time and wait for more news and not be mislead by rumors.
It is known that many listeners expected to see and hear something different, maybe more of old Armin, maybe just his own tracks, maybe someone wanted to hear some other vocalists. But, my advice: when you think about this show, don’t just think about last weekend. Try to remember all 20 years of Armin’s work, the moment when you just started listening to his music, your first events, maybe even friends you made because you loved his music at some moment. Don’t forget emotions and feelings, which even just one of his tracks has ever given to you. And remember that he is also a music lover as you are, maybe just with a little bit different taste than yours.
It was also very nice to receive “Thank you for tonight!” e-mail shortly after the show was over, with Armin’s personal message to everyone. It shows how he values his “fanbase” – such a small example of gratitude is always a good reason for another genuine smile and memories, which will stay with you for a really long time.
And here I am, finishing the first draft of this article somewhere 11 km above Canada, more than 4000 km away from Amsterdam. Full of fresh memories and emotions, but still wanting to see the video from the show as soon as possible, to relive Saturday again, with hope for another similar experience in the future with other passionate music lovers, and, of course, the mighty Trance Family.