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Stage Buzz Live Review: Thievery Corporation at Park West

| October 4, 2021

Thievery Corporation

Thursday, September 30,

Park West, Chicago

On Thursday night, a fully packed Park West had the vibe of a trance-dance party, with the love and unity of an Afrobeat ensemble. If strictly immersed on the dance floor, one would think it was DJ night. But it was so much more with five boundless musicians complemented by five incredible vocalists. From the opening song to the final “Warning Shot,” fans were on their feet, hands in the air, dancing to the rich, textured compositions that defy genre, era, or categorization.

How can they be described? According to their website, Thievery Corporation “mines their musical inspirations and create one of the most unique bodies of work in electronic music, respectfully incorporating tastes of international cultural styles, without ever falling into the trap of cultural appropriation. We always wondered: with so much incredible music in the world, why would anyone limit themselves to one genre?” Explaining further, “When we started, we were influenced by music  from all over the world, flipping through bins in second-hand record stores for LPs from Brazil, India, Iran, Jamaica, jazz records…..we wanted to make music where you didn’t know whether it was recorded today or a decade ago.” So much to unpack and so musically visceral.

Under the leadership of Washington DC-based producers Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, Thievery Corporation is as exciting to watch as it is to dance to. Hilton on guitar and sitar, Garza mainly perched in back on a riser playing keyboards and played guitar at the front of the stage. Bassist Ashish “Hash” Vyas paced the stage barefoot, dancing, kicking, and delivering the great backbeats and grooves signature to this ensemble. Kit drummer and musician director Jeff Franca coupled with Chicago’s own Frank Orrall of Poi Dog Pondering provided lush, intricate, and above all, irresistible dance rhythms. Vocalists Natalia Clavier, Puma, Notch, Racquel Jones, and Loulou Ghelichkhani rotated on and off-stage, engaging the audience in a full spectrum of reggae-dancehall-toastmasters working the crowd to lilting, ethereal melodies.

The set included popular cuts “Lebanese Blonde,” “Sweet Tides, “and “Culture of Fear,” packing 21 songs in the 90-minute set. “The Richest Man in Babylon” started at a halftime tempo from the recording as they built momentum, providing a unique variation on the recorded version. A particular treat was their performance of “Air Batucada” (The Mirror Conspiracy). A fan favorite never played live.

Their sizable and devout following they built over twenty five years is not merely by hit dance singles but
word-of-mouth, festivals, soundtracks, musical inclusiveness and collaboration. A testimony that great songs, passionate performances, and musicianship wins over hype and promotion. Readers should explore deeper, as this group has so much to offer on all fronts: musicians, producers, touring acts, DJs, recording artists, and more.  They are constantly reinventing themselves.

Sadly, the band’s home base, Washington, DC’s Eighteenth Street Lounge, co-owned by Eric Hilton, closed during the pandemic last summer. Thievery Corporation recorded its first tracks inside the back basement bar in the early ’90s. But as one door closes, one would expect nothing less than another door will open for them. Check out their latest release Symphonik, containing reimagined orchestrated live versions of their songs.

The opening act, Minneapolis’ Dessa, showed us why she’s also a beloved performer in Chicago. The singer/rapper/writer brings her talent, personality, and active engagement to audiences at every show.

Set List
Assault on Babylon
Shadows of Ourselves
Pela Janela
Culture of Fear
Lebanese Blonde
Road Block
Encounter in Bahia
Sweet Tides
The Richest Man in Babylon
The Outernationalist
Air Batucada
Letter to the Editor Remix
Voyage Libre
The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter
Until the Morning
The Forgotten People
Fight to Survive
Warning Shots
(Via Setlist FM)

-Reviews and photos Philamonjaro



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