By Josh Herwitt //
Ten years ago, Zach Braff introduced millions of “Garden State” fans to the downtempo, worldly beats of Thievery Corporation. At the time, the Washington, DC-based collective founded by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton had already released three studio albums and more than 10 compilation discs on their own Eighteenth Street Lounge Music record label.
But it wasn’t until Braff incorporated the hypnotic, Middle Eastern sounds of “Lebanese Blonde” into his 2004 film’s soundtrack that people really started to take notice of the electronic duo’s work.
Now after almost two decades, Thievery continues to evolve and grow, as evidenced by their 2014 full-length effort Saudade (read our review here), which embodies the bossa nova spirit many Brazilians experience in their everyday lives.
Yet, even though Saudade stands as the group’s most straightforward and traditional record to date, sticking to the same formula for all 42 minutes, its live show, meanwhile, hasn’t suffered.
Coming to LA for one of the biggest gigs in their nearly 20-year history — a Saturday night headlining spot at the legendary Greek Theatre with opener Stephen Marley warming up the mostly middle-aged crowd — Thievery brought the funk from the outset, opening their 90-minute set with Natalia Clavier singing to the groovy “Web of Deception” from 2011’s Culture of Fear before turning the mic over to Loulou Ghelichkhani for “Take My Soul.”
While it wouldn’t end up being the only time Clavier and Ghelichkhani made appearances during the show, Garza and Hilton did enlist a diverse roster of emcees and singers to rock the mic from start to finish. One of those guest performers was Boston rapper/producer Mr. Lif, a longtime Thievery collaborator who teamed up with Ghelichkhani at one point to perform the track “Holographic Universe” off arguably the outfit’s most high-profile LP, The Cosmic Game.
Also getting into the action was Ras Puma, Sleepy Wonder and Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell, each of them bringing their own unique style to the front of the stage while Garza and Hilton, perched high above the rest of the band, played conductor from their individual risers.
But the biggest surprise of the night had to be bassist Ashish “HASH” Vyas, who showed signs early on that he may have had a little too much to drink or smoke or quite possibly both in the green room (no pun intended) before stepping onstage. And as the show progressed, things seemed to only get worse for Vyas. With a few songs left in the set, he had to be escorted off the stage by security after inviting a fan onstage and trying to teach him how to play bass in the middle of a song. To make matters even worse, he slapped the fan in the face after less than a minute and sent him back into the pit as many looked on in shock. As funny as it was to some audience members at the time, let’s just say that Garza and Hilton weren’t exactly pleased as they watched it all unfold in front of them.
For as strange and surprising as Vyas’ behavior was though, the rest of Thievery didn’t skip a beat down the homestretch. They capped off the show with one of their best tracks in their expansive catalog — the reggae-infused “Warning Shots” featuring Sleepy Wonder — leaving us without an encore but not a night void of memories.
Web of Deception
Take My Soul
Culture of Fear
The Forgotten People
Depth of My Soul
Heart Is the Hunter