ZHU: The Artist
Zhu is a present day rockstar. He enters the stage with a silhouetted ranger hat lined with a veil that descends past his shoulders. He kicks off the night with a dirty beat ‘Came for the Low’. From there he brought it in a way that exceeded expectations. He sampled Jay-Z, Timbaland, Britney Spears, and Coldplay into his set, all with varying moods and swings. He brought in the dark dub for the bass lovers, and incorporated sing-along lyrics for those who just want to scream. To quote his sample of ’Simon Says’ by Pharoahe Monch, “Get the fuck up.” ZHU is in the building.
When you see a performance of memory, it takes you on a journey. It has pulses, It has moments to dance, to sing, to rest. It dazzles you, it gives you touches of nostalgia, and also hits you with that new new. ZHU gave a performance that was fitting of a timeless icon. I wonder if this is what it felt like to see Jimi Hendrix perform.
ZHU’s Dreamland Tour has a theme that pays homage to monstrous force that is the Los Angeles highway signage and repair system. ‘Traffic Delays Expected’ was the running theme. And it fit crisply into the set, creating a sense of place in a city that is so plagued by traffic. As Angelenos, it is our greatest pain that connects us all.
Shiba San the opener, could have been a headliner in his own right. When I saw the line up, I was a little gobsmacked that we were gifted with such a talented kick off. While he did not play his fan favorite ‘Okay’, he did bring some really fun banging house rhythms that got the crowd warmed up for ZHU.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Greek theater, it is an intimate outdoor venue in the hills just outside of Hollywood. You can see the stage clearly from every seat in the house so there is a lot of fun to be had no matter where you end up sitting. The venue is interspersed with outdoor loungers and bars. Generally, the music there is more folksy and rocky. However, more recently the venue has begun integrating more EDM into its schedule.
Many of the employees asked me at the door. “What are we in for tonight?”, and at the end many of those same employees were like, “Dang, that was pretty cool.”
ZHU has a documentary short documentary on YouTube: Welcome to Dreamland – ZHU. (Not to be confused with the Glass Animals tour of same name). This doc explores the itch to get out and create in a world stifled by the pandemic. It is a cinematic journey on a silver bullet train. It delves into the pain of lost live music during the pandemic and the massive resurgence of the industry as shows sell out for all sorts of artists globally.
When discussing his year off from live music, ZHU says that “what I’ve missed most from concerts is the team.” ZHU is more than just front man and vocalist Steven Zhu. The group features talented live instrumentalists as well. Mitch “ the Locksmith” on guitar plays with elegant precision. Ronny Sax brings the soul with an extensive background in Jazz. And their most recent addition of a live drummer, V12, brings the wild animal energy.
If you ever get the chance to see him. I would encourage you to do so. He is a real artist.