Los Angeles, California (April 26, 2018) – It’s 80° on this sunny April day, but inside of the Globe Theatre in Los Angeles, CA, it feels like the mid-70’s – the 1970’s, that is. Giorgio Moroder‘s 78th birthday is the reason for this sudden timewarp, and a host of talented musicians have gathered to pay tribute to the man often referred to as ‘the father of disco’. Fans have even traveled in from out of state for the rare opportunity to see Giorgio Moroder perform. The mood in the room is electric with anticipation, and the sequin-coated crowd sparkles nearly as brightly as the disco balls that they dance beneath. DJ’s Adam 12 and Aeroplane both spin their music selections from behind an LCD screen-coated booth, while bands Yacht and Roy Ayers spread out on stage, building the audience to a frenzy while they await Giorgio’s appearance.
It’s only fitting that the evening was opened and closed by DJ sets from Adam 12 – there’s none better to set the mood, given his background. Besides being a founding member of the darkwave group, She Wants Revenge,’ Adam 12 is one of the masterminds behind ‘Giorgio’s,’ a modern-day reincarnation of Studio 54, located in Hollywood. He promptly won over the room with disco remixes of classic hits. As the crowd eagerly filled in and found their favorite positions for viewing and grooving, he dropped track after excellent track, including a surprising disco version of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.” Adam 12 remained a sharply dressed shadow in head to toe black, flooding the room with hits while staying in silence himself. Nestled among video walls of disco balls and purple lasers, he kept up the stream of crowd-pleasing songs, including a disco version of “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, and a healthy dose of Michael Jackson songs.
Yacht took the stage, and the crowd made their way to the front of the room, to dance in front of a gyrating Claire Evans, while Jona Bechtolt and Rob Keiswetter played guitar and keyboards a few feet behind her. They opened with “Shame”, from the 2017 album, Strawberry Moon, and it wasn’t long before Evans left the confines of the stage, leaping down to meander through the crowd, dancing with and singing to everyone she encountered. Scrambling back on stage, she dryly remarked “this next song is about sex”, before launching in to “I Wanna F*** You Till I’m Dead”, one of their more controversial releases. The crowd went wild, prompting Evans to comment “well, that changed the feeling in here”, as they continued on into “Hologram”, another fan favorite. Yacht kept up the energy of the crowd throughout the set, playing both new and older releases, with Evans repeatedly venturing out on to the dance floor. Appropriately, they wound down their set with “Where Does This Disco”, before handing the floor over to Aeroplane.
Aeroplane took command of the DJ booth. The Belgian DJ is known for his French house-inspired beats and nu disco remixes, describing them himself as “spacious cosmic disco”. He immediately departed from Yacht’s more modern sound and got all of the bell bottoms in the room swaying to the beat. Tracks like THP Orchestra’s “Who Do You Love” melted seamlessly into Aretha Franklin’s “Jump to It”. The crowd let out a round of appreciative cheers when The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” began to play, and if it weren’t for the occasional cell phone raised in the air to snap a photo of Aeroplane manning the turntables, you wouldn’t be able to tell what decade you were in!
Roy Ayers took the stage at 11 PM, to a packed house. Ayers, often referred to as “the Godfather of neo-soul”, stood center stage with his vibraphone; he looked over the crowd for a long moment before beginning to play, and the room leaped back into motion. The whole house sung along loudly to “Everybody Love the Sunshine” and “Searchin’”, but every song played was a hit with the crowd – it’s no wonder that Ayers has had his music sampled in more hip-hop songs than any other artist. Although Ayers himself is a legend, he didn’t hesitate to give every member of his band their own time in the spotlight to shine during a solo, literally turning his back on stage and stepping into the shadows while his fellow musicians showed off their skills.
Just after midnight, Giorgio Moroder stepped on stage – after all, it wouldn’t have been fair to ask him to work on his birthday! Moroder blew out the candles on his birthday cake, before greeting the adoring crowd and taking his place in the DJ booth. The set begins with a blaze of lights, a blast of icy CO2 fog, and the barrage of driving disco beats. The crowd rhythmically chanted and swayed along to his version of “Tom’s Diner”, which swaps out Suzanne Vega’s vocals for Britney Spears. Moroder continued to play tracks from his 2015 album, Déjà Vu, including “Right Here, Right Now” with Kylie Minogue and “Back and Forth” with Kelis.
Throughout his set, the LCD screens surrounding the stage played videos of Moroder’s collaborators or clips from the films that he scored mixed with dazzling neon shapes and cosmic scenes. While scenes from Scarface and The Neverending Story played on screen, Moroder conducted the crowd’s motion from his booth, prompting them to clap and wave their arms along with the beat. Balloons, confetti, and shimmering gold streamers shot around the room periodically; some of the crowd gathered the golden strands into makeshift pom-poms, cheering Moroder on as they danced to “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer and “Flashdance” with Irene Cara, which won him one of his Academy Awards.
As Moroder drew close to the end of his set, he asked permission from Adam 12 for extra time, to play a few more songs; naturally, his request was granted. Stars swirled over the screens, making it look as though Moroder was floating in space. “I know these two robots from Mars…” he began, as cheers erupted for his song with Daft Punk, from their recent album, Random Access Memories. It was their collaboration on the song “Giorgio by Moroder” that drew him out of two decades of semi-retirement, inspiring his return to the spotlight in 2013. He took to the microphone one final time, smiling out to his fans. “This last song is my favorite – but you have to sing it with me,” Moroder instructed, as the first notes to Blondie’s “Call Me” rang out. The crowd obliged, shouting out the chorus as the lyrics flashed on the screen behind Moroder, who gleefully waved his arms, dancing along. As the song faded away, he waved once more to the adoring crowd and slipped backstage.
Adam 12 took to the stage for a second time, to continue the revelry. Although some of the crowd headed home with Moroder’s departure, there was still a healthy contingent that remained to dance along to Michael Jackson, who entreated those still on the floor to not stop until they’ve had enough. After tonight’s display, only one possible conclusion can be reached – disco isn’t dead, after all!
Photojournalist: Temma Hankin