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THIEVERY CORPORATION @ Metro City gets 9/10

Thievery Corporation @ Metro City
w/ POW! Negro
Thursday, March 8, 2018

9/10

Thievery Corporation have always been in a league of their own, operating independently of trends, genres or industry conformity. The Washington DC outfit are based around the core production duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, but it is their live shows that have made them legendary and garnered them a cult following. When they tour, they don’t mess around, with a full live band bringing their eclectic, unique sound and colourful musical vision to life. The five-piece were boosted by an incredible six vocalists, all with their own unique style.

The group has released 10 albums over the course of 21 years and their sound has evolved into a heady musical cocktail that takes in elements of ambient house and electronica, hip hop, bossa nova, exotic world music sounds and reggae with a heavy dose of dub. They are touring their release of last year The Temple Of I & I – their most reggae flavoured album to date, which soaks up all the tropical sounds of Jamaica, where they stayed while recording it. That said, their two hour set took in highlights from throughout their vast back catalogue.

The title “I & I” itself is a Rasta term used in place of “You and I” to express togetherness and closeness to God, and by the end of the show there was indeed a wonderful, communal vibe of love emanating from the dancing crowd, who found themselves transcending to another level through the amazing musical performance.

POW! Negro

Well chosen support for the night were Perth’s own stars in the making POW! Negro. These kids are on a definite upward trajectory, oozing energy and talent, and put on a tight, professional set. While the early start meant the room was sparse when they started, they would have no doubt impressed the crowd of mostly more mature, discerning music lovers, that were rapidly filling the ground floor of Metro City.

Their songs pack a punch and have a message, and the band are all great players with a sound that is a jazz, funk, rap and rock fusion. Spearheading the charge is their awesome, dynamic MC/frontman Nelson Mondlane, who delivers his aggressive vocals in a style somewhere between Zack de la Rocha and Joey Bada$$. He exudes amazing energy as he bounds and prowls around the stage, making a photographer’s job very tough! Money For Portraits he said was about what it would be like “if we sold out – which will never happen” and Hidle Ho just straight up rocked. Check these guys out while you can, as it’s only a matter of time before the world finds out about POW! Negro.

But everyone was here tonight for one reason, and as the crowd swelled towards the front, the anticipation grew, and excited fans raved to other fans who hadn’t seen the band live before. The stage was set, complete with a leather couch plonked in the middle surrounded by a myriad of electronic equipment and more exotic looking instruments, letting us know we were in for something grand.

Pretty soon Thievery Corporation took the stage – Garza at the middle-back, conducting it all from behind racks of gear. He was joined by guitar, bass, drums and percussion, and the talented roster of rotating vocalists.

First up was Frank Orrall, whose mic took a minute to start working, before he delivered the smooth vocals on the chilled-out dub of Marching the Hate Machines (Into The Sun) – the opening track from one of their biggest albums, 2005’s The Cosmic Game – the original vocals were sung by Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. Orrall then stepped back to play percussion, as mega-cool rasta rapper Puma Ptah strode out – their most commanding frontman was dressed smartly in all white with a bowler hat, spitting fire on new track, True Sons Of Zion.

Thievery Corporation

Then it was time to introduce one of the real stars tonight, Jamaican vocalist Racquel Jones. The gorgeous and stylish Miss Jones is a former model and runner-up Miss Jamaica, and also one hell of an MC. The group found her whilst recording in Jamaica and she’s a great fit, lending some real swag to the group. She burst onstage for Letter To The Editor, one of the standout tracks on the new album, and rapped and danced her way around the stage with confidence.

Until The Morning featured Natalia Clavier, whose smooth, rich timbre is reminiscent of Portishead, and also highlighted the other star of the band – bass player Ashish “Hash” Vyas. One of the coolest, funkiest bass players you’re ever likely to see, he’s a live force, something like a combination of Flea, Mani and Robbie Shakespeare. In continual motion, the long haired Hash marched, spun and bounced across the stage in bare feet with his wireless bass, sporting a striped waistcoat and pants, as he laid down the incredible heavy grooves all night.

Boston rasta MC and critically acclaimed underground rapper in his own right, Mr Lif, has been working with the group since 2011. The dreaded one is a consummate pro and delivered the rhymes in his straight up style on new track Fight To Survive.

Thievery Corporation

Another long-time vocalist with the group is amazing Lou Lou Ghelichkhani. Born in Iran, and raised in Paris and California among other places, her exotic heritage and lush voice are the perfect match for the group. The chanteuse prowled the stage in a leopard skin jumpsuit with black robe and boots, singing smoothly in both French and English, effortlessly breezing through La Femme Parallel and the dub-heavy Time + Space from the new album.

It was amazing how well the group utilised the strengths of each of the six vocalists on their various tracks, to take things to very different places – sometimes singing together such as when Mr Lif was joined by Lou Lou and Clavier for Ghetto Matrix, and Jones for Warning Shots. Puma delivered another late highlight with Amerimacka and Orrall returned for a star turn on The Heart’s A Lonely Hunter, sung by David Byrne originally.

An extended encore saw Garza step out the front to play some guitar, and introduce all the band members, allowing them to take the stage together. It also gave unsung hero Rob Myers a chance to step in the spotlight to show off his awesome guitar work, before he took a seat on the couch for a sitar jam.

Lou Lou delivered another stunning downtempo number with a beautiful rendition of Sweet Tides. Several of the vocalists lent their voice to The Richest Man In Babylon, before it all climaxed with the inevitable finale of perhaps their most well known track, Lebanese Blonde, with its familiar sitar riff.

Thievery Corporation are a force to be reckoned with and may have assembled their greatest live band yet for this incredible and uniquely brilliant performance, leaving a lasting impression on the dazzled audience.

Words and Photos by
ALFRED GORMAN

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