The Ascend tour stop in San Diego was a transcending experience with Illenium full of his latest tracks, older classics, and insane production.
When thinking about the success Illenium has seen over the past few years, it’s incredible to see how far he’s come. From his debut album Ashes in 2016 to 2017’s pivotal Awake and the breathtaking Ascend this year to numerous collaborations and remixes in between, he’s grown an increasingly large fanbase of Illenials. His ability to appeal to his listener’s emotions allows for a very open and understanding relationship with his followers and I noticed this in full effect on December 6 at Pechanga Arena.
Upon arriving at the venue for openers William Black and Dabin the floor was already full and ready to start the night. Having never seen them before I had no idea what to expect. Both sets echoed each other in the most beautiful way with a combination of melodic, feelsy tunes and the occasional harder track that had everyone dancing. This foreshadowed the intenseness of what was to come later that night from Illenium.
Dabin brought out Said the Sky as well to add even more power to his performance, and the crowd went crazy as they craved for Illenium to complete the trio. It was only a matter of time until Illenium would take the stage for the show.
The tension in the room was palpable as we counted down the minutes until Illenium’s set.
At last, the infamous “I Care” intro to the album played out with its words flashing across the screen, and Nick appeared center stage playing guitar in front of a flaming phoenix. I truly appreciated all the live aspects of the show and how Ascend really came to life.
Illenium’s guitar playing, Day Gatsby on drums, Said the Sky on piano, and Annika Wells’ singing all added to the uniqueness of this live performance. Nick really killed all the times he played guitar. Even Dabin came out to jam on guitar too, properly reuniting the band with Illenium and Said the Sky.
Flowing into “Blood”, “Gold”, and Kompany’s “Justice”, the show’s beginning had everyone on their feet headbanging away.
Annika Wells joined Said the Sky on piano for a soothing acappella rendition of “Crawl Outta Love,” leading into Blanke’s “Hollow” with the most vivid lasers I’ve seen. The lasers were a crowd favorite for sure, as they lit up the arena and blew people’s minds. Soon after, Nick dropped my favorite track off Ascend, “Hold On,” and mixed in his collaborations with other artists like Kill the Noise.
Illenium did a tremendous job at keeping the balance between heavy bass tracks and more mellow songs.
It’s amazing how someone can go from tearing up at “Leaving” and “In Your Arms” to losing their mind during Slander and Crankdat’s “Kneel Before Me,” yet Nick Miller is a pro at keeping a good mix of both genres. The bangers kept on rolling with a rollercoaster ride of songs such as Halsey’s “Without Me” remix, “Takeaway,” “Feel Good,” “Gorgeous,” and Illenium’s latest collab with Ekali, “Hard to Say Goodbye.”
Another solid moment in the night was when Dabin full-on smashed and destroyed a guitar during Excision’s “Rumble,” making for an awesomely legendary part of the show. That and “Throwin’ Elbows” really had me riding the rails and releasing my inner headbanger.
Closing out the show was “Angel” (the conclusion to the album and prelude to
“Lonely”) with Annika Wells hopping back on stage to sing “Sad Songs”. She really does have a beautiful voice, and I was so excited to see her again on this album as I loved her on “Crawl Outta Love.”
A grand finale ensued with confetti shooting everywhere and the whole band performing “Good Things Fall Apart”, with Nick getting back on guitar and absolutely shredding it. With the lights shining on all the confetti falling and the whole band in full effect, it made for a gorgeous end to the night.
Illenium’s next-level production reveals all the hard work he’s put into his show.
The production in this show was outstanding. From the visuals to the lasers and lighting, I appreciate all the thought that Nick and his team put into this performance. The risers on stage created a two-level environment, placing Illenium in the middle with band members surrounding him, expanding the usage of the stage.
The fire aspect of the show was crazy as well; I could feel the heat all the way from the back of the venue! Additionally, the beautiful visuals made especially for the show brought Nick’s vision to life and reminded us of the power of the phoenix. The countless lasers shined bright throughout the night, creating an element of magic in the air.
Personally, this night was special for me as I got to spend time in the front of house and see how the lighting, visuals, and lasers crew does their job, courtesy of visuals-extraordinaire Sandy Meidinger. William Black hung out there as well and Nick’s girlfriend Lara Mcwhorter, which made for an extra surreal night.
It’s not too often that I get to see Illenium, but out of all the times I’ve seen him this might have been my favorite yet.
I do wish that he played more tracks off Awake, or even had a throwback set in Southern California, but it was called the Ascend tour for a reason. We came, we saw, and we ascended during this meticulously crafted show; from all aspects of the insane production to hearing the Ascend album played live, this stunning and fascinating performance was one for the books.
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