Nestled away in LA’s iconic Griffith Park is a beautifully-lit, tree-lined amphitheater known as The Greek. It was an unlikely, though definitely not unwelcome choice for Thievery Corporation’s only night in Los Angeles. With the beautiful voice of Skye Edwards soaring above the Godfrey Brothers (aka Morcheeba) orchestrated an intricate, groovy set that welcomed everyone to the evening with finesse.
Thievery Corporation is known to have a “carnival-esque” atmosphere at their live shows—rotating different vocalists, instrumentalists, and artists on and off throughout the entire show. This politically charged ensemble, led by the production skills of Rob Garza and Eric Hamilton, truly defies the boundaries of genre. Their abstract, downtempo sound is a deep blend of trip-hop and acid jazz that is rich with the influence of world music. The group has released tracks in more than seven languages. And on Friday night, Thievery Corporation came out swinging with one of my favorites, “The Forgotten People”. This song brought on the eclectic framework of the band: a percussionist/vocalist, a drummer, the funkiest brass section in the world (see photo below), a bassist/dancer and front men Rob Garza and Eric Hamilton spanning several instruments each on top of manning the turntables. The band settled into this heavy tribal groove beautifully, letting it grow and build until the band and the audience was ready to get down to business-—it was the perfect start to an equally perfect show.
The evening was so expertly balanced between the many different sounds of this project. The night heavily featured the enticing, dream-like funk we’ve come to expect from the group—most songs featuring an ethereal female vocalist from Thievery Corporation’s tribe of musical goddesses. Favorites like “Lebanese Blonde”, “Sweet Tides” and “Until The Morning” hung poignantly in the air—leaving the audience breathless. Heavy-hitting hip-hop tracks like “Culture of Fear” and “Unified Tribes” were sprinkled systematically throughout the set. The weight of these ballads was offset by the firepower of the Thievery’s Rastafarian vocal brigade and their reggae-inspired tracks such as “Radio Retaliation” and “Warning Shots”. Heavily political, many of these songs are better characterized as a “call to action”. Often speaking out against wars of aggression, exploitative trade agreements and organizations like the IMF, there is a powerful undertone of change in all of Thievery Corporation’s music that boils over when performed live.
This was my first chance to see Thievery Corporation in the headlining slot, and it definitely won’t be my last. It was such a gift to watch them explore the intricacies of their music. They lead their audience down a sensual and evocative path of musical discovery—slipping seamlessly between moods and genres the entire night. The finale ended with every member of this 13-piece ensemble on stage thanking the audience for sharing the evening with them. A particularly spirited fellow behind me said it best: “Hey man! Gang’s all here!”
SETLIST – 9/20/2013
The Forgotten People
Culture of Fear
Take My Soul
Is It Over?
Until the Morning
The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter
Strange Days (The Doors Cover)