Thievery Corporation are often denigrated as overly-chill “mood music” that is better suited for elevators and hotel lobbies than the speakers of anyone who is interested in legitimate music. Though their echoes, reverberations, and groove-able bass lines do exhibit a certain lounge-y ambiance, their music is far more substantial and intricate than a lot of people give it credit for. Their live shows in particular have been known to sway any non-believers.
One of the reasons their live performances are so revered is the fact that everyone on stage is a flat-out professional, and it shows. As far as the instrumentalists go, percussionist Frank Orrall was particularly mesmerizing to watch. Behind an elaborate setup that seemingly consisted of everything imaginable a drumstick could be taken to, he nailed absolutely every note as he ripped off combination after combination, each with more flourishes and energy than the last. Not only that, but he came to the front of the stage to sing lead vocals on “The Heart’s A Lonely Hunter.” Talk about versatility!
Also a pleasure to watch was guitarist and sitar-ist Rob Myers. Aside from the unique spectacle of watching a sitar player in action (the opening bars of “Lebanese Blonde” drew a huge reaction from the crowd), Myers reeled off a pristine guitar solo during the set’s closing song, “Warning Shots,” that almost brought me to tears. This was especially impressive considering he had been mostly playing space-filling wah-wah riffs up to that point.
Despite how mellow and spacey Thievery Corporation’s music can be, it is also particularly politically-charged, and their progressive, anti-war, pro-human rights sentiments are usually expressed via the rhythmic lyrical chops of a number of in-your-face reggae vocalists, all of whom were in attendance Monday night at The Moore. Their energy was through the roof and at times bordered on annoying as they continuously tried to hype the crowd (“Seeeaaaaattle, I can’t hear you!” might have been yelled over 50 times throughout the course of the night). And I love the Huskies, Seahawks, and Mariners as much as the next guy, but being called on to cheer for the local sports teams in the middle of a Thievery Corporation show seemed weirdly out of place.
Nevertheless, their energy was not lacking and energy at a live show is always a good thing. This certainly was not a show for fans who were expecting to sink back in their chairs and let Thievery’s mellow ambiance wash over them. You can space out all you want at home with your headphones, but when you have the chance to see Thievery Corporation live you better get up and move!