So Australia Day weekend arrived and with it the long-awaited, sold-out show at the Hordern, headlined by Above & Beyond, with support from Andrew Bayer and Norin & Rad.  But before I come to that, a quick word about the night before and a five-hour set by Sasha at the Metro.

My biggest gripe about the Metro has always been the very poor sound there.  It’s never been good and the last time I was there, for the Genesis NYE party (see below), it was so bad that it nearly ruined the night.  So I was apprehensive that poor sound would again be a problem.  But I’m delighted to say that the promoters and their team did a great job of sorting out the sound issues; so much so that now I know that shows at the Metro do not have to be ruined by muddy sound, distorted bass and no trebles.  Let’s hope that other promoters can find out how to get it right too.

Sasha was a favourite back in the day, but these days I’m really a trance fan and not so familiar with his sound.  I had fun, and at times found the music amazingly hypnotic.  But if I’m honest, I would have liked a bit more by way of uplifting melodies to really take me away.

We were aiming to get to the Hordern in good time for the start of Andrew Bayer’s set.  What we hadn’t figured on was the enormous queue to get in.  So by the time we’d got past the ID checks, bag searches and ticket scanners, we were about ten minutes late for Andrew Bayer.  And not only was there still a long queue of people behind us, the Hordern was already packed and warming up.

Having listened to Bayer’s artist album, It’s Artificial, recently, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy his set much.  But I knew that if he played stuff like his work with Boom Jinx, we could be in store for a great warm-up.  And sure enough, his choice of tunes, including Taxi Driver and Keep Your Secrets, was spot on and built perfectly towards 11.30, when Above & Beyond were due to take over behind the decks.

We were all very warm indeed by the time Bayer wound up!  In fact the heat was getting to be too much for some people, who would normally have been front and centre and they had to take refuge at the sides.  I’ve only been hotter and sweatier once before, at Brixton Academy when Armin van Buuren played a four hour set there in 2011.  But this ran that very close and the Hordern surely has much better ventilation than this? Our folding fans proved invaluable and extremely popular!

Above & Beyond’s last visit to Sydney was for Creamfields, last April, and that had been a huge disappointment – the sound was so quiet that many people, myself included, gave up and went to the indoor stage.  But I’d seen them twice since then – at Global Gathering in the UK and at Cream at Amnesia in Ibiza.  And both times they had played good sets, including a few of their older tunes as well as a heavy selection from Group Therapy, including the awful Sun & Moon.  However, with Trance Around The World having given way to Group Therapy Radio, I was a bit worried that the days of them playing their old favourites might be gone.

I needn’t have worried.  From Tri-State, they dropped Home, Can’t Sleep, Liquid Love and Air For Life.  They also played No One On Earth and two Oceanlab classics, Sirens Of The Sea and (to close the set) On A Good Day (Metropolis).  And scattered throughout the set were classics from Signum and the A&B alias, Tranquility Base.  And while they had to drop Thing Called Love and Sun & Moon (including dragging someone out of the front row to press play), they also included some of the better songs from Group Therapy, such as On My Way To Heaven and Alchemy.

One of the features of Above & Beyond’s sets in recent times has been the visuals they use, including messages typed into their laptop and displayed on the screen.  At times these were informative, such as telling us it was the new tune from Oliver Smith.  At other times they left me baffled – what was the Breaking Bad reference all about?  But mostly they were rather cheesy and sentimental.  Personally, I think it’s time they dropped the messages, or at least avoid the twee stuff about love, special moments and how amazing the audience is (I bet you say that to all the girls!).

Norin & Rad took over at 2am and the crowd began to thin out noticeably, but probably the majority of people stayed to listen to them. I’d been wanting to see them for a while now, ever since two friends from LA who we’d met at Global Gathering in the UK in 2011 had told us about them. But we really didn’t like their electro style or choice of tunes and after half an hour we decided we were cooked and it was time to head home.

Overall, I really enjoyed the night … despite the intense heat (and news of Chelsea’s late equaliser at Griffin Park).  This kind of event is far better than the typical Australian festival, although better still are the real club nights held in real nightclubs.  I guess that Above & Beyond are too big a name for that kind of show to happen these days, unless it’s at the Marquee, which is not my idea of a real nightclub anyway.