While in the midst of planning my quarter-century birthday trip to Spain last year, I stumbled upon an announcement of Justice’s then-upcoming European tour, which was due to start in their home country of France. Glancing at the tour dates, I noticed that their stop in Paris just so happened to coincide with the timeframe I was planning to be on the same continent. Clearly some sort of divine entity had considerately set up the opportunity for me to see my favorite DJs live in their home city, and who am I to deny the wishes of of the divine?

My trip to Paris was well worth it. Following a set at Coachella 2012 that was rife with technical difficulties and truncated by 25 minutes, I was eager to have the full Justice experience when I entered Le Zénith, an arena in Paris’ Parc de la Villette, and the performance was every bit as epic as I imagined. I will never forget the cascading lights circling around the arena while Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay stood behind their illuminated cross podium working their electro magic, and I have on more than one occasion wistfully thought about how awesome it would be to relive that night.

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You can imagine my delight when I heard that Justice would be releasing a live album recorded during one of their July 19th shows in Nîmes. The album, titled Access All Arenas, is the second live album the French duo has released (the first being 2008’s oh-so-incredible A Cross the Universe). Given how fondly I remember that May 24th night in Paris, I was eager to give this new album a listen to see how it compared.

Access All Arenas opens ominously with a drawn-out build up leading into “Genesis,” the introductory track on Justice’s debut album, Cross. Reminiscent of the set I caught in Paris, the crowd yells along with the opening beats of the song as it launches into the familiar thumping. Listening to this, I distinctly remember how the lighting changed in time to the music the night I saw the show.

From here they work in “Helix,” my favorite track from their sophomore album, Audio, Video, Disco, which I remember drove myself and the crowd around me into a frenzy. The expertly re-worked “Phantom Pt. I” leads out with the vocals of “Civilization” laced over it before the latter track is played in full. In what was perhaps my favorite moment of their Paris set, “Civilization” is mashed up with Cross’s “New Jack” toward the end.

A sped-up and more guitar-oriented version of “Canon” is dropped while segments of “D.A.N.C.E.” are thrown in. A dramatically reworked version of the latter song serves as the next track on Access All Arenas. Although I would have loved to hear the original version of “D.A.N.C.E.” somewhere in there, I’m pretty satisfied with this rendition, which sounds somewhat similar to MSTRKRFT’s remix of it but hits harder. A snippet of Jay-Z’s “On To The Next Dance,” which featured samples from “D.A.N.C.E.,” is thrown in for good measure.

The chorus of “DVNO” is layered over the opening of “Horsepower,” which, for the most part, remains unchanged from the album version. The live version of “New Lands” is particularly special for me because I recall how my initially lukewarm attitude toward the song took a turn for the better the night I saw it played live. The same can be said about “Stress,” which I once disliked but vividly remember losing my shit over when I heard/saw it live.

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During a drawn out interlude in the middle of the banger “Waters of Nazareth,” Justice plays the vocal track of “We Are Your Friends” while the crowd chants along before throwing it down hard. Shit was lost again. An extended 10-minute rendition of “Audio, Video, Disco” serves as the first set’s closer. It leans a bit on the overly drawn-out side, but it’s fairly easy to forgive.

The encore set of Access All Arenas opens with a very mellow version of “On’n’On,” which sends the same chills down my spine as it comes to its orchestral close. Much like they did in Paris, Justice ends with a reworked version of my absolute favorite track of theirs, Soulwax’s remix of “Phantom Pt. II.” Unsurprisingly, the crowd goes wild (-er than they already were, which was pretty damn wild).

Not that I need to spell it out for you, but it’s pretty obvious that I’m utterly enamored with this live album.  There is but one legitimate gripe that I have with Access All Arenas, and that’s the absence of Justice’s remix of Soulwax’s “NY Excuse,” which was sandwiched in between “On’n’On” and “Phantom Pt. II” for several of their other sets, including the one I saw in Paris. Its omission is, quite frankly, puzzling to me as it fit in so perfectly with the rest of the set and sounded so damn awesome live.

Still, I loved this release for reminding me why I had one of the best nights of my life in Paris on May 24, 2012. Justice more than adequately showcases their ability to splice and dice their own tracks to form a live experience that’s interesting to someone like me who knows every single one of their songs like the back of their hand.

The release of 2011’s Audio, Video, Disco has added more diversity to Justice’s live sound, and although A Cross the Universe, their first live album, will always have a special place in my heart, it’s pretty clear to me that Access All Arenas offers more complexity and variety. I enthusiastically anticipate Justice’s next studio release and the live shows that will follow!

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