By: Carissa Aguirre
ZHU has to be one of the most unique electronic artists I’ve seen live. When you listen to his music, you pick up on the sound of the guitar, saxophone, and drums, but nothing compares to the live performance. On Friday, October 6th, ZHU took the stage at Bayou Music Center in Houston, Texas. The last time the artist was in Houston, he was opening for Swedish House Mafia at the Toyota Center. The 2023 Grace Tour would be his first headlining tour in about five years. The Grace album has yet to be released, but he did release an EP, Days Before Grace, prior to the tour.
Before Stephen Zhu came to the stage, we were greeted by a message that read of his experience in Grace Cathedral. The cathedral in his hometown of San Francisco is what inspired this new album. The DJ walked out on stage accompanied by guitarist Mitch Bell and saxophonist Aaron Leibowitz. These three were the main attractions of the show. They stood in front of the giant screen as the beginning of Take My Soul began to play. It was a very long intro that mesmerized the crowd as we anticipated what would happen next. The light cut out, and ZHU took center stage under beaming white lights. Fog immersed the stage as he sang.
For the majority of the show, he stood on an elevated deck that had to be over 20 feet tall. It was in the shape of a box that took up most of the stage and doubled as a screen that displayed trippy visual effects throughout the entire show. Behind the screen was a small room that housed the drummer, saxophonist, and guitarist. But they didn't stay inside the entire time. They each took the spotlight, playing solos and in conjunction with ZHU on the keyboard!
The entire show was filled with dancing, singing, and a lot of screaming. The crowd was immersed in flashing lights and lasers, with one of my favorites being Working For It. The lasers shot in every direction with the beat of the song. Of course, we heard the songs off of the new EP released earlier this year, but we also got to jam out to some of ZHU's most popular hits, like Faded and Cocaine Model. Plus, he played my favorite song, In the Morning. It was so cool to see the crowd moving and singing along from the balcony!
The venue transformed into the exact scene that I believe ZHU imagined for this tour. He wanted to turn the venue into what he created at the Grace Cathedral, and he definitely achieved it. The show reminded me of an underground rave. With the gothic stage setup and ceremonial elements, we were transported to the day he began recording this album at the cathedral. If you are a fan of EDM with a sprinkle of vocals similar to The Weeknd, this is definitely the show to see. ZHU's music will make you feel euphoric to the point where you can’t help but dance.