GD50 – Thievery Corporation
“Initial Thoughts” on a Stellar Take on The Dead
There will be a very in-depth analysis and photos coming early next week, but for now here it goes… The initial thoughts.
Last night Thievery Corporation gave Chicago Deadheads all they wanted and more. Leaving DC, hopping off a plane in Chicago and going straight to the Aragon to see one of DC’s finest bands perform was one of the best times I’ve had in 2015 at a concert. Thievery’s ability to offer their own signature flavor to the Dead catalog is what ultimately set this show apart from any other late-night performances that will happen throughout the weekend.
Not only that, but leading up to these shows Rob Myers (guitar), Ashish Vyas (bass), and Jeff Franca (aka Congo Sanchez – drums) had rehearsed a great deal. Some of these, such as “Scarlet Begonias” with Lou Lou on vocals, were sound checked two weekends ago at Red Rocks.
The band started things off with the second track off The Richest Man in Babylon (released 2002), “Facing East”. This selection highlighted some hefty bass work from Ashish, coupled with some strong back and forth from Jeff and Frank O. “Take My Soul” and “Understand” opened the door in fan’s mind to the phenomena that is Thievery Corporation.
Then, out of nowhere Rootz came onstage and crushed the vocals on an early show “The Other One”. Without skipping a beat, Mr. Lif and his outstanding stage presence performed “Culture of Fear”, the title track for Thievery’s sixth studio album. Jamaica’s finest, Sleepy Wonder, strolled onstage to crush the spotlight with his reggae vocal finesse for “Radio Retaliation”.
Rob Myers sat down on the couch to rock the sitar on “Lebanese Blonde” and the energy really flowed nicely into the “China Cat Sunflower” then back into another Thievery song, “Liberation Front”, featuring brothers Steele, Rootz and Zeebo. The highlight of the night may well have been “Eyes of the World” featuring bassist Ashish Vyas and drummer Congo Sanchez handling vocals. The two rarely sing with the band, but they absolutely nailed it. Back into Thievery’s catalog for a few tracks “Illumination” and “Amerimaka” were well executed.
The placement of the songs right after “Eyes” but just before the “Scarlet Begonias”> “Fire on the Mountain” was sheer brilliance. Lou Lou gave a serenading touch to one of the best songs in the Dead’s catalog with her vocals on “Scarlet”. That might’ve actually taken the cake for the night. Puma got things irie with a dubbed-out reggae interpretation of the chordal vibes on “Fire On Mountain”.
Natalia came back to the stage and added some soulful treatment to “Depth of My Soul.” Just when you thought she was done, she kept going in the best way possible. Mr. Lif came out, knowing Natalia had just blown the roof off the Aragon, and asked fans to give her one last round of applause. The “Holygraphic Universe” off It Takes A Thief featured both Mr. Lif and Lou Lou.
Then, once again, we were treated to another healthy helping from the insanely talented brothers Steele for “Vampires”. “Heart is the Hunter” went straight into “Unified Tribe” to keep things going strong before an absolute anthem of a song.
“Warning Shots” is a song that Thievery Corporation often uses to close out shows. In and of itself, it is a testament to one of the best live performing bands on the circuit. Garza and Hilton stood at the top of the DJ booth and guided us on a journey as only they can. Sleepy, Rootz, Zeebo, and Ras Puma absolutely crush warning shots, “1, and in comes the 2 to the 3 and 1.” Puma is waving a white towel in the air, jumping up and down as Sleepy gets full-on primal in his camo suit. The dance floor was definitely shaking during this one.
Frank and Congo did a great job on the back and forth on “Drums” > “Space” with Rob Myers on sitar. How many bands this weekend are going to cover the Dead on sitar? No one. Look, Thievery just knocked down the most unique Dead set of the weekend, and they set the bar high. As much as I love seeing bands like DSO cover the Dead, Thievery actually took the songs and made them their own.
To seal the deal Natalia came back on stage and let the “Dark Star” come crashing in. This went straight into a seamless segue of “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes”; a song that, in my mind, encompasses what makes Thievery so special.
Lou Lou came back up for a stunning “Sweet Tides”. Then the Thieves put it all on the table with the last song of the night, “Richest Man in Babylon.”
After the show, the backstage energy was positively incredible. They knew they crushed it, we knew they crushed it – they did the music justice. This was one of the best Grateful Dead related shows I’ve ever seen in my life. They bring a refreshing and original take on the catalog that hasn’t ever been approached in this way. That is what will make Thievery Corporation stand out at the end of this whole GD50 -Chicago weekend.
Ryan Swerdlin Photography
More Photos Coming Next Week!