Thievery Corporation House of Blues May 1, 2014
It's always a treat to be in the same room as a world-class band; one that, no matter what part of the globe you're in, is welcomed with open arms. Thievery Corporation are just that. They are the definition of world music. They bring something that no other band can or ever will bring to the table, which has kept them going strong as a group for many, many years.
While they're usually the perfect festival band, Thursday the Washington D.C. group brought their wares to the big stage at House of Blues. With a host of different singers and a solid backing band, the duo's two-hour show was a nonstop dance party.
Thievery Corporation have the ability to keep you enthralled throughout the set, not only be their quality of play, but by changing their sound from song to song. They go from hip-hop to reggae to calypso to funk to rock to French-pop to bossa nova, and that's within the first seven songs. With a bevy of vocalists, the switch happens as soon as one leaves and another takes his or her place.
One sensual singer who looked like Catherine Keener was replaced by a rapper before he was replaced by a New Wave singer before two Caribbean islanders came out and brought the reggaeton with them. The original duo of Eric Hilton and Rob Garza traded licks between the guitar and the DJ booth while regular bassist Ashish "Hash" Vyas stalked the stage in circles throughout the night. Even when a singer wasn't center stage, the core band had no problem vibrating the room.
They started early and played late, with the best of their storied discography to the stage but a heavy dose of latest effort Saudade. Hilton and Garza met in the '90s due to their mutual interest in the bossa nova genre. While their first recording reflected that, they eventually moved on, but now nearly 20 years into their career as a band, have stepped back to the genre that originally brought them together, and put out a record again inpired by bossa nova.
Although I haven't heard Saudade, the new songs played over the course of the show were not nearly as dancey and fun as the rest of the songs in set, but you could tell that the band highly enjoyed performing the new material. The crowd seemed to eat it up, too. Every time a certain female singer (sorry, there were so many that it was hard to keep track of their names) made it to the stage, you knew it was time for more bossa nova.
And that's when the crowd switched from arm-waving and jumping around to doing the salsa and the tango. It went from a frat party into a sensual soiree all within minutes, all thanks to Thievery Corporation's ever-rotating genres.
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Still, songs like "Vampire" and "Radio Retaliation," the crowd seemed most into it during the rowdier points of the night. Although, when they played slower-moving classics like "Lebanese Blonde" and "Amerimacka," the crowd also gave the band their all. One unique cover came in the form of The Doors' "Strange Days," which was slowed down and almost unrecognizable until the familiar chorus hit.
While I prefer Thievery Corporation in a big grassy field surrounded by hula hoops and the scent of patchouli, it was cool to finally get the chance to see the band indoors. Thankfully they started early and ended late, because they were able to jam as many of their songs into the set as they could. While the new material was ever-so charming and at times adorably twee, the real burners were their tried and true, tested material that the packed-out house was there to see.
Personal Bias: I've been seeing Thievery Corporation for many years now, and have never been dissatisfied with the outcome. It was cool to hear the new stuff this time around.
The Crowd: Midtown/Washington folk who decided this was the night to drink excessively.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I find you very attractive" said one possibly inebriated girl to seven guys around her before one older biker-looking dude eventually swooped her up and started grinding on her.
Random Notebook Dump: I think the new hip-hop fashion trend is dressing like an old rich white dude from the '80s.
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