Sold Out 3 Night Run at 9:30 Club in DC Commences
By Andrew M • John Shore Photography
Every so often a group comes along that shakes up the norm and changes the game completely. Let’s face it, in 2015, going to see an act that is wholly original and unique in their sound is a rare find at best. Sure, I enjoy funk, jam, jazz, reggae, rock and lots of stuff in between. But the best attribute a band can offer me is to be different. And to be good at being different. Thievery Corporation has that and more. There is no other band to accurately compare them to. Sure, you could start listing a buffet of genres that the Thieves draw from, but no one does what they do as well as they do it. Eric and Rob have created their own genre of downtempo lounge music with an eclectic sampling of musical influences from around the world.
Bassist Ashish Vyas told us why he enjoys playing at home in the comfort of the 9:30 Club.
The history of the 9:30 Club is incredible! Being someone who loves art punk, the bands that have graced both the original location and the present one have influenced the soundtrack of my life! To be a part of it is magical! – Ashish Vyas, Bassist, Thievery Corporation
Thievery Corporation – 3 night (sold out) Run at the 9:30 Club
The breadth of work from the Thievery Corporation transcends time and space. You can feel like you’re in the Middle East one song, France another, and sometimes you’re in the Caribbean. The lineup of Thieves features an all star cast of vocalists; Lou Lou, Natalia Clavier, Sleepy Wonder, Puma Ptah, Mr. Lif, Rootz, and Zeebo.
“Do you applaud fear, Do you hold it near, Are you afraid to live your life,The way I perceive, Into my arms I’ll catch you, Do you mind If I always love you, Heaven’s gonna burn your eyes,” sings Natalia Clavier. The reverb-soaked beautiful woven vocal finesse sweeps over a room like fresh air. The dreamy lyrical genius off the first track of The Richest Man in Babylon, “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes”, is a stellar choice to kick off the run.
Recently, after one beautiful serenading voice after another, Lou Lou stepped on stage. Ashish’s bass line and delayed keys and stringed ambience start this dreamy track. Lou Lou’s vocals take “Take My Soul” on a relaxed psychedelic journey. This spacy song carries the theme and messaging of the album, Culture of Fear. Jeff Franca (aka Congo Sanchez) provided a strong backbone of rhythm to accompany Ashish on this track. These first two songs were a nice lead into all that would ensue over the course of the night.
Later Puma hit the stage for his first song of the night, “Overstand,” which draws on one reason Thievery has been successful over the years. They create lyrics that are deep and seek to address some of the more controversial issues in society. Agree or disagree with these opinions, as a listener you should be open and respectful to the fact that this artwork and social commentary has always been a part of what makes music so special, the bands of the great classic rock era were ultimately part of a movement with a culture of their own. “So Let Me Make It Clear, I Don’t Care For Religion, But You’re Still My Brother, No Matter Your Decision.” Puma’s voice is a soothing one that gives him vocal delivery a smooth transition from his mic to the audience’s ears.
“Don’t switch the dial, I said do not touch the dial, this is the test of the Thievery Corporation on Radio Retaliation,” says Sleepy Wonder. A native of Kingstown, Jamaica, Sleepy has been on the scene as a highly sought after artist since the late 80’s. His career is marked by his gifted dancehall reggae. The title track the band’s fifth album, Radio Retaliation, was a well-placed choice in the set.
Those who haven’t seen Thievery yet may not have known they still had more vocalists joining the party with us on V Street last night. You want to talk about someone who can get the audience going? Mr. Lif’s lyrical content is rich and deep with cerebral thematic elements served to the listener with a healthy heaping of flow of your favorites. The lyrical passages addressing the “Culture of Fear” we currently live in couldn’t be more applicable to the times of today. Mr. Lif is a true showman. Rather than normal day-to-day type messaging, this track addresses and questions the current state of society we live in, “Don’t succumb to this culture of fear.”
Well if you didn’t know “It is on”, you were in for one hell of a surprise with “Liberation Front”. Brothers Rootz and Zeebo are among our favorite front men around; saying that they have stage presence is an understatement. Like the cast of Thieves, they command the attention of the audience with complete and utter domination of their time on stage. Rob Myers Les Paul comes in with a funky feel good attitude, Congo locks in, and Ashish walks around the stage, turning around abruptly every so often, literally feeling the groove of the stage floor, no shoes necessary. Rootz and Z got on that stage and made sure every person in the building was moving, they don’t offer fans any other option, even teasing Sly & the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).”
Every vocalist had gone up there and made a point. Eric Hilton and Rob Garza keep taking us on a sonic journey as Frank Orall’s percussion shined in “Illumination.” Rob Myers sits down on the couch with aviator shades on, sitar in hand, to take us on a journey into the tunnel of world music. Franca’s drums rumble as the primal sounds of the earth shook the 9:30 Club.
Lou Lou came back up on stage for “Firelight,”followed by Natalia for a very strong rendition of “Depth of my Soul.” Both of these songs were featured on the latest 2014 release, Saudade. The album solidifies Thievery as a band always progressing themselves professionally as musicians. And while these songs aren’t one you may have heard them play for a few years, they are no less important, and they certainly proved that last night.
When Zeebo came out on stage, Myer’s silky wah led riffs blended in with Garza and Hilton’s mix to create a societal commentary track. The platform they provide for Z is incredible and his execution is top notch.
Puma came out and told fans they’d had a chance to perform before the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well show in Chicago as part of The Music Never Stopped Series. The Dead’s signature, “Fire on the Mountain,” was given a nice kick of reggae to it. The B to A progression is laid back and calm, perfect for a pocket reggae groove. The delivery was strong and Natalia and Lou Lou even came up on stage to provide some back vocals for the chorus. Hilton was clearly enjoying this number for sure.
Then, they slowed things down in tempo for Natalia on “All We Perceive” and a very crisp “Sweet Tides.” This is the point in the show when you realize you’ve had seven vocalists step on stage multiple times and absolutely blow you away.
They kept it downtempo, but entered into some very familiar territory for fans with “Amerimacka” featuring a duel threat vocal onslaught from Sleepy & Puma. We got two great follow ups, “Vampires” and “Heart is The Hunter” thereafter. Mr. Lif just was not going to let us leave without another riveting spectacle; he hit us good with “Unified Tribe.”w
Then it was time. “Warning Shots” were fired and we were off to another realm with Sleepy, Puma, Zeebo, and Rootz all onstage. This song has become an anthem of sorts for the band, particularly live. Puma is catching air waving around a towel leading the countdown “1, and here comes the 2, and the 3 and 1!”.
The crowd had been given all they asked for and more. It was only night 1, but they weren’t letting anyone leave with a one-off encore. The massive had much more in store for us. “Forgotten People” went into another Lou Lou led song, “Le Monde.” Then, the signature notes off Rob’s sitar rang clear as we went deep into the Corporation for a very well done “Lebanese Blonde”. To end to night, the deal was sealed, but they seemed to just want a nice nightcap for everyone. “The Richest Man in Babylon” embodies a lot of what the Thieves stand for both in political vision “The wicked stench of exploitation, Hangs in the air and lingers” on, philosophical thought, and life in general. Sleepy, Rootz, Puma, and Zeebo rang throughout the fan favorite 9:30 Club.
At the end of the night what is it that makes this band different? What differentiates them from every other band? They have their own sound. You can’t find it anywhere else. This is the Thievery Corporation. Last night they told the audience who they were.
“Say it like you mean it!,” shouted Z to the crowd.
The beat goes on tonight.
Thanks to Rob Myers, John Shore, Ashish Vyas, Jeff Franca, Mitchell, and Jay