This blog post is based closely on the review I wrote for DJ Mag Australia, which can be found on its website, here.

The worldwide celebration of trance, A State Of Trance 650, rolled into Malaysia on Friday 15 March as part of the Future Music Asia 3-day festival. And with no sign of Armin van Buuren planning to bring his annual party back to Australia, there was a sizeable contingent of Aussies flying in to join in the fun for the second year running in Kuala Lumpur.

Arriving at the Jalat Bilal stadium for A State Of Trance 650 party, we were greeted by the familiar sight of security lines and ID checks but it was a pretty smooth and well-organised entry and we were soon inside the venue. The stage was set up in the large car parking area outside the stadium itself but it was such a large area that there was capacity for tens of thousands. A strange arrangement where you were not allowed to take alcoholic drinks into the front part of the arena seemed hard to fathom, especially given how poorly it was enforced.

The stage production and sound was as good as anywhere in the world and noticeably better than in many countries I have attended festivals in. The light show on the screen behind the DJs was a fantastic 3D affair and even before dusk the lasers were playing across the smoky haze that enveloped Kuala Lumpur from recent nearby bush fires.

After a couple of local DJs got things started, it was time for the Australian, MaRLo, to open up the official ASOT650MY proceedings. After MaRLo’s set there was a fifteen minute interlude for prayers – not something that I’ve come across at a festival before!

A change to the original running order saw Andrew Rayel up next and he delivered a set true to his style, mixing popular tunes such as Zedd – Clarity and One Replublic and Alesso – If I Lose Myself Tonight together with his remixes of classics like Cosmic Gate – Exploration Of Space and Faithless – Insomnia. When he dropped his own tune – How Do I Know?, he was joined on stage by the singer, Jano, to take the crowd’s applause. He also treated us to various recent hits like Armin van Buuren feat. Trevor Guthrie – This Is What It Feels Like, Dash Berlin feat. Emma Hewitt – Waiting and Above & Beyond feat. Richard Bedford – Sun & Moon. He finished with a flourish, dropping Alex M.O.R.P.H. – For The Love Of An Angel and handed over to Omnia.

Omnia took up where Andrew Rayel left off and was soon giving us an extended and re-worked version of Omnia & Ira – The Fusion and he had everyone jumping around to his own track – Infina (but did he play it twice?) as well as a double hit of Gareth Emery, dropping Arrival, from the Northern Lights album and Emery’s new tune, feat. Bo Bruce – U.

Now it was time for Markus Schulz to spin the tunes and give Kuala Lumpur a shot of his Coldharbour style. We were treated to tracks from his new Scream 2 album accompanied by favourites from Scream, like Nothing Without You (feat Ana Diaz), standards from his sets in the last year like Fisherman & Hawkins – Apache and back catalogue classics like Markus Schulz – The New World. He even dropped the old Fat Boy Slim hit, Praise You. This was not my favourite Schulz set of recent times, but he was undoubtedly playing well to the local crowd, who responded enthusiastically.

With the screens dazzling, the lasers playing across the night sky and the sound pulsating, there was an electric atmosphere as the evening drew towards its climax. At 10.45pm, Schulz handed over to the man himself, Armin van Buuren, who gave us a tour de force of trance from his newer tunes from the Intense album, like Forever Is Ours (feat. Emma Hewitt) and The Sound Of The Drums (feat. Laura Jansen) to the latest single, Ping Pong and updated classics like Tiësto – Adagio For Strings (James Dymond Rework), Binary Finary – 1998 (Jordan Suckley Remix) and his own Communication (Faruk Sabanci Remix).

As the clock moved to midnight, he took the microphone to get everyone to stop dancing for a moment and pray or pause in thought for the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. It was a poignant moment before we got back to dancing.

He gave us flavour of Gareth Emery, mashing up Concrete Angel (feat. Christina Novelli) and U (feat. Bo Bruce – Bryan Kearney Remix) and then he ramped up the gears with the Shura Vlasov mashup of Simon Patterson – Brush Strokes and John O’Callaghan – Big Sky. He concluded the set with RAM feat. Susana – Ramelia and Armin van Buuren vs Photographer – Airport Shivers (Armin van Buuren mashup). There was just time for an encore and naturally he chose This Is What It Feels Like, mixing up two remixes – the John Ewbank Classical Remix and the W&W Remix. If you can’t beat them, join them, so I sang along …. ironically, of course!

After two magnificent hours from Armin, it was time for Paul van Dyk to take over and bring the night to a fitting conclusion. With a set full of his own productions, such as Time Of Our Lives, For An Angel and I Don’t Deserve You, PVD kept the tempo high and the crowd dancing to the very end.

This was a magnificent day’s music for trance fans local and international coming together on the day to celebrate as the Malaysian trance family. Undoubtedly Armin himself stole the show, but none of the other DJs let the side down and all played their part in making it a day to remember.

The news broke the following afternoon that six party goers had died as a result of overdosing on methamphetamine – the details are still somewhat sketchy as I write this – and as a consequence the following day’s Future Music Festival Day 3 was abruptly cancelled by the Kuala Lumpur police. Although everyone is undoubtedly shocked and saddened that this should have happened, I can only hope that it doesn’t overshadow a fantastic day enjoyed by so many thousands.