Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Why I Love Thievery Corporation

Radio RetaliationLast night, at the House of Blues in Boston, I did one of my favorite things in life. I watched Thievery Corporation live.

Thievery rocked the House of Blues for a bit over two hours in a highly entertaining and energetic set that was opened by none other than Federico Aubele and his well-tended afro. It was my first time seeing this Argentine live and he was as mellow and sophisticated as his music suggests, smartly dressed in slacks and a blazer and oozing charm and class with his acoustic guitar and the stunning female guest singer at his side. Aubele sang an extra-reggae version of Ante Tus Ojos that was an absolute joy to listen to live. After he left to loud applause and whistles, Thievery opened their set with Mandala, the tripped out Indian-flavored dance track from their latest album, Radio Retaliation, and the place went wild. Throughout the entire show they brilliantly incorporated three visual screens, filling them with rich imagery and footage of people in India or Latin America participating in rallies or doing yoga excersizes. Thievery sang music from all of their CDs, sometimes making them reggae-heavy or slightly changing the rhythm. The basist from DC and their sultry singer from Guyana were particularly tasty eye candy. For the climactic finale Sleepy Wonder had all the pretty girls go up on stage and dance with them to the sound of thumping drums and the stellar brass section as the place went wild.

I love this band because we share a lot of the same beliefs about life, politics, and music. They push all the right buttons for me. When you go to a Thievery concert you are always reminded that the world is nothing more than a global village. They are able to bring people from the most disparate of places into a single room, and they are able to make them laugh and dance to the same music. Just in my immediate vicinity I heard people speak in Spanish, Arabic, and French. And then there is the diversity of their sound. Every show features a sitar, African drums, and several different types of guitars. Their music is a truly eclectic blend of dub and reggae, samba and bossa nova, Cuban and other Latin rhythms, trip hop and acid jazz incorporating the Indian sitar, and the odd afro-beat enveloped in electronica. The singers that Thievery has on stage, which last night included Natalia Clavier, LouLou, and the ever impressive Sleepy Wonder, sing in Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Jamaican Patois.

Lies & Theft
Guns & Debt
Life & Death
-Fela Kuti in Vampires

But beneath their deep understanding of world music, beneath their ability to make certain music fans like myself tick, is Thievery’s willingness to incorporate world politics into a lot of their music, particularly in their last album, aptly titled Radio Retaliation. Thievery is from DC, where I grew up, and it is impossible to remain impassive in the face of politics if you have ever lived in that microcosm of power and intrigue. Thievery are left leaning and it shows through in a lot of their lyrics, from Fela Kuti strongly denouncing the IMF in the song “Vampires” to the incendiary lyrics of the jam “Sound the Alarm” with Sleepy Wonder calling his troops to action. One of the high points of last night, and one I will never forget, is Natalia Clavier and the Brazilian songstress whose name escapes me right now chanting “el pueblo unido jamás sera vencido” with their fists up in the air along with the frenzied crowd in a scene right out of Chile or Angola during their most turbulent years. What with all the frustrating political crap going on in the States today, from Tea Party nutjobs to the country’s inability to pass a healthcare reform bill among a growing tide of misinformation, it was a truly captivating, powerful sight (below is the track El Pueblo Unido, from the album Radio Retaliation and featuring Verny Varela).

Such was the acclaim of the public that Thievery returned not once but twice for lengthy encores in a Boston night that featured one of best live acts I have seen in my life, a night that inspired me and reminded me that despite all the dissimilarities between people of different races and cultures, despite all the bullshit in world politics, despite all the infuriating injustice, there are still many, many people out there who love and respect each other and each other’s culture, and who dance to the same eclectic beat.

And that is why I love Thievery Corporation.

-Photo: That sultry singer from Guyana whose name I can't remember, during a concert in DC. Photo by Jazmin Million

El Pueblo Unido

Thievery online
Theivery on Myspace


SteveA said...

I saw then 2 weeks ago in Tampa just after the U2 show - I have to say I preferred the Thievery show - the lighting and diversity of international talent showed that this band is in tune with the world and world music - they absolutely rocked!

Claudio Silva said...

They never dissappoint SteveA. It's my second time seeing them live and I'm gonna keep seeing them live whenever they're in the vicinity.

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