To disappear all but completely on a stage has long seemed to be Calvin Harris’s mission in music. Never comfortable in his gawky first incarnation as a pop star, ropey of singing voice and even ropier of dancing, he’s openly searched since for a position where he can coin it in as a writer-producer without having to give much of himself to his live performances.
Tonight, not far from his native Dumfries, where he once stacked Marks & Spencer’s shelves when not crafting beats in his bedroom, Harris makes a triumphant homecoming as the world’s highest-earning DJ three years running: a £70m-odd silhouette at the centre of a light and pyrotechnic machine that’s spewing fire, confetti and lasers within five minutes.
Harris isn’t called on to do much, other than hoarsely entreating the crowd to bounce or raise their hands every now and then. It’s a watch every bit as soulless and spiritually malnourishing as that sounds. But plainly no one in this 30,000-strong selfie-snapping sea of teenage and twentysomething girls in welly boots and hot pants came here expecting anything more nutritional. A Calvin Harris DJ set is something akin to riding a sonic rollercoaster, each dizzying build followed by a stomach-tipping drop, air horn synths blaring, low-end booming like a symphony of provincial seafront town boy racer’s bass bins.
So unwilling is Harris to make a concession to something more performative, not even his one famous guest singer we know to be present tonight – support act Ellie Goulding – appears in person. Her voice is canned on I Need Your Love and Outside, just like Rihanna’s is on We Found Love, and Florence Welch’s on Sweet Nothing, and Tinie Tempah’s on Drinking From the Bottle. Intuitively euphoric songs like Summer and Blame soundtrack formative times in millions of young people’s lives. The craven anonymity of their live delivery belies what a spectacular achievement that is.