Steven Zhu, better known by his stage name ZHU, performed at The Sylvee on Oct. 11 as part of his nation-spanning Grace Tour.
ZHU, a San Francisco native, is a true tour de force when it comes to live performances. ZHU embarked on the Grace Tour, which is set to include a staggering 24 stops across North America from Toronto to Hollywood, to promote his latest EP “Days Before Grace.”
The tour intends to create anticipation for his new album, which will release on Jan. 19. Charismatic Los Angeles-based house and techno DJ Noizu came along for the ride, accompanying ZHU for his Madison performance.
Noizu started off the night with house music mixes as the floor slowly filled with fans. His calming stage presence, combined with flashy on-stage visuals and lighting, immediately captivated the crowd. Even those buying merchandise or drinks couldn’t help but bop their heads or move their feet to the floor-shaking bass and snare hits. Everyone from the older audience to a small child in attendance could not stop dancing.
Noizu was a great opener who introduced everyone to the house, techno and EDM music that dominated ZHU’s act.
Shortly before ZHU went on, the lights shut off and red letters illuminated the screen.
“On May 23, 2023, Steven Zhu started to record his fourth studio album in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco,” the letters read. “He went back to his hometown to find inspiration for his next mission. He wanted to share some of these moments with you tonight.”
The mention of a church meant the show would have a religious undertone or contain religious imagery. Shortly after these letters faded away, figures in monk robes walked on stage, one of which donned a “matrix-esque” leather coat and glasses.
What ensued can only be described as midnight mass meets rave. Flashing lights and lasers illuminated The Sylvee as ZHU and his band effortlessly enthralled the crowd, the backdrop adorned by images of stained glass.
ZHU’s setlist, which consisted of his hit songs like “Cocaine Model,” “Faded” and “In the Morning,” was a mix of dubstep, house, techno and R&B. ZHU effortlessly transitioned through each genre, likely due to his skilled band consisting of a saxophonist, drummer and guitarist.
The instrumentals complimented every song that evening. For one of the tracks, ZHU and his band took a step back and let the saxophonist take center stage for an impromptu solo. Although this may seem like an oddity, it added a unique jazz flair to the “in your face” nature of EDM music.
The production of the show was nothing short of spectacular. The mixing was incredible, and ZHU’s vocal mixes perfectly accounted for his particularly high register. The band's instruments also shined through in spite of the booming 808s and sparkling synthesizers.
All in all, ZHU is a performer that left everything out on the stage. His sheer effort was evident in everything from stage production to musical talent. He is an artist who radiates talent and is capable of conquering various musical genres with ease.