Live Review: Thievery Corporation

16 February 2016 | 7:59 pm | Alfred Gorman

"For almost two hours they kept the gardens grooving with their incredibly funky beats and rotating roster of amazing vocalists."

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The opening weekend of the Perth International Arts Festival kicked off in fine fashion, the Chevron Festival Gardens' new home down near Elizabeth Quay proving to be a big winner, the excitement of the new precinct adding to the occasion.

And Saturday night was a grand occasion, as Washington DC’s legendary Thievery Corporation came to town and blew the crowd away.

Not seen in these parts for a long time, their full live band show is a thing to behold. For almost two hours they kept the gardens grooving with their incredibly funky beats and rotating roster of amazing vocalists, and by the end had won a special place in the hearts of those present.

It would be lazy to call Thievery Corporation trip hop, but chilled out, down tempo grooves are what they are most associated with. Over the course of nine studio albums in 20 years, the core production duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, who work with a band of incredible musicians and vocalists, have explored dub reggae, ambient electronica, hip hop, bossa nova, and more exotic eastern sounds, to create an entirely unique sound all of their own. And live, the five-piece band put on an amazing show with heaps of energy and a great variety of tracks chosen from their deep repertoire.

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Starting slowly with Heaven's Gonna Burn Your Eyes, lush, ambient sounds sparkled over a slinky bassline, with Natalia Clavier’s beautiful, floaty vocals wafting across the warm night air.

Take My Soul was a similarly gorgeous introduction to vocalist Lou Lou, who enchanted the crowd as their incredibly funky bassist Ashish Vyas stalked the stage. He would give Flea a run for his money.

After lulling us under their spell, they quickly upped the tempo as rastaman Puma Ptah took up the mic for a dub reggae number with some serious bass and delay drenched guitar.

Old school rapper, Mr. Lif joined them for a few tracks, a consummate showman who really got the crowd involved. As did younger rappers, Rootz & Zeebo who took over the stage as they bounded around, sporting safari hats.

That kinda set the formula for the night, with the constantly changing styles and vocalists, making for a dynamic performance. Brilliant drumming and percussion underpinned the dual guitar work, while main man Garza stands on a platform at the back, behind the decks, conducting it all.

Lou Lou’s appearance again incited cat calls, as the sexy chanteuse sashayed her way through Firelight.

As their name implies, Thievery Corporation have never been afraid of getting a bit political. Rootz & Zeebo joked about Donald Trump being the next president, then dedicated Vampires to the 'international money motherfuckers'.

After some heartfelt thanks, Mr. Lif brought everyone together with Unified Tribes before a huge finale of Warning Shots. The massive applause coaxed them back out for an extended encore, that saw guitarist Rob Myers sit down to play the sitar, which culminated in the classic Lebanese Blonde. An amazing performance from an incredible and unique band.

Originally published in X-Press Magazine