Five years after their last album and almost exactly three years after their last live set, ODESSA returned to their hometown of Seattle on Friday night (July 29), showing the roughly 17,000 in attendance at the city’s Climate Pledge Arena that — despite the name of their latest album — there really is no final goodbye.
The duo, Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, released their new LP, The last goodbyeon July 22, kicking off their tour a week later with a sold-out 3-night run at Climate Pledge, continuing Saturday (July 30) and Sunday (July 31). The tour will then extend across North America this summer as well an amphitheater race. But with Friday night marking ODESZA’s return to live music, anticipation was extremely high, and Billboard was there to witness it.
At 5.30pm on a warm and sunny Friday, fans decked out in ODESZA merch gathered around the edges of the Climate Pledge Arena, the world’s first carbon-free arena, in wild anticipation of ODESZA’s imminent return. The doors to the venue opened at 18.00, and fans poured in from all sides of the arena. Many immediately lined up at the various stalls, and some ran to get food and drink, while groups of friends reunited in the corridors. All in all, the inside of the arena turned into an ODESZA-themed convention, with LED screens showing various animation renderings done by the duo’s Foreign Family Collective team setting the mood.
People began to find their seats around the arena, with the floor a little less than half full at 19.20 as Foreign Family Collective’s signature Ford began his set with “Craving” from his 2018 album (The evening. It was a fitting welcome to a great night of music and performances, with the artist warmly greeting the audience and saying it was his first time performing in an arena and that he was excited to be opening for ODESZA next three nights. He played a remix of “Flashing Lights,” which got some heads bobbing, and then “Living, Breathing,” one of his faster songs. He ended his set with “Bedford Falls,” a track filled with calm drumbeats and lo-fi inspiration.
Sylvan Esso was next on the night’s lineup and started playing at exactly 20.11. Amelia Meath, the duo’s singer, carried the performance with her crisp, powerful vocals that sounded extremely comfortable blasting out of the arena speakers. Nick Sanborn, the duo’s producer, laid the groundwork for danceable beats and modular tones to tie in with Meath’s vocal prowess. As the end of their set drew near, fans began to return from food and drink trips, last-minute bathroom adventures and merch take-outs to get to their seats for the main event.
As they neared their scheduled start time at At 9.25pm all seats in the arena were quickly filled and the floor, still relatively empty at half-time, was now packed to the brim – but from the center towards the back of this area there was still plenty of room to move and dance. (This writer got a heads-up about being front and center for the first three songs, a pro tip that other concertgoers should heed.) Then all the lights went dark as the audience screamed ecstatically and fans in rapture stand up to join in the cheering.
Seconds after hitting 21:25, the scene slowly came to life. The ODESZA icosahedron logo lit up as “This Version of You” began to play. The fans shouted and cheered and chills were felt as Julianna Barwick’s meditative introduction from the song welcomed everyone to a positive mindset and deeper thoughts. Her voice over the arena speakers was soothing, yet strong and confident. As the song built, you could feel the electricity in the air as people emotionally prepared for an hour and a half long musical adventure.
The duo then played a new song, “Behind the Sun” — which sounds like classic ODESZA — with explosive pyrotechnics that pair beautifully with the song’s drop. The sample of Iranian artist Simin Gharem’s song “Sib” combined beautifully with the percussive and bass-heavy work, showing their expertise in finding samples that work so well in their music. It wouldn’t be an ODESZA show without hearing coveted VIP versions of original tracks, which included “All We Need,” “Something About You” (mashed up with “Love Letter”), “Memories That You Call” and a surprising D ‘n’B VIP mix of “Falls” that worked incredibly well.
While the duo’s previous tours hold near-mythical status among fans, ODESZA’s visuals on Friday night absolutely floored the crowd and definitely compared to, and in many cases topped, what they’ve done in previous shows where they explored different themes in vivid ways. Their visuals also took a darker turn, with frames of an android-like figure clad in gold running against a strong current and navigating through an apocalyptic wasteland as “Keep Moving” from ODESZA side project Bronson played. There was also a demonic wolf trying to tear itself out of the screen, and during “Loyal” a flurry of arrows hit the screen followed by a skeleton knight walking menacingly through a field.
There were also a few cheers from the crowd, with Mills saying: “It’s so good to be back. We’re so excited to be playing in our hometown again.” The classic “Let Me See You One More Time!” from Mills also had the crowd shouting, dancing and forgetting struggles and hard times, even if only temporarily. The fans were a key part of why the play felt so big and all-encompassing. Everywhere looking, there were smiles, people were in awe of the visuals and production, and strangers acted like friends.(Special shout-out to the Foreign Family Collective Discord community members for offering helpful tips and great recommendations to people who visited Seattle for shows, and welcomed many new fans of ODESZA this weekend.)
The guys brought in singer Noami Wild for “Higher Ground” and “Better Now” (which originally featured MARO) and Charlie Houston for “Wide Awake.” Wild looked great on stage and it was actually comforting to see her performing live again after her run on the A Moment Apart Tour. The eager listeners seemed to catch it, but almost every new song they played Friday night was layered with songs from previous albums, marking this tour as a celebration of not only the new album, but all of ODESZA – the catalogue.
The ODESZA drumline, also returning for this tour, deserve their own praise as they are a wonderful act in their own right. Surgically precise with their movements and completely in sync with each other, their presence dominated the arena every time they performed a solo. The trumpeters stood on their raised platforms, creating a pleasing symmetry on either side of the duo, their sound echoing vividly throughout. After a brief transition through faded lights, a drummer and bass guitarist took the stage for the encore “The Last Goodbye”. It culminated in a shower of magical confetti, with fans grabbing pieces of icosahedron-marked paper as the images on the screen depicted the same figure from the opening segment touching and undulating the screen, which quickly faded into darkness.
Mills and Knight, along with all the musicians and drumline, gave a final bow while a harmonious version of “Light of Day” played in the background.
The first night of a series of three sold-out shows at the Climate Pledge Arena was a resounding success. While the direction of their music has certainly changed, it mixes the emotional and electronic nature of previous albums with a deeply introspective look into the adventure ODESZA has taken since their 2012 debut, However, until today. After a decade with the group, Friday night proved that one thing remains true – ODESZA is meant to be seen and heard live.