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May 27, 2005

Shortcuts - Thievery Corporation @ the Vic

Thievery Corporation

Vic Theater

May 16

Thievery Corporation, the wide-ranging duo of Eric Hilton and Rob Garza, came through Chicago recently to support their latest album, The Cosmic Game. After the opening act (an '80s pop act infused with tropical sounds), Garza and Hilton took the stage. Hilton played bass, while Garza handled the electronics in what served as a brief instrumental introduction to the show. Then they took their places behind the elevated center consoles, and the band emerged.

Percussionists Frank Orrall and John Nelson, guitarist/sitar player Rob Myers, and a bassist were on stage the entire night, with a saxophonist, trumpeter, flutist, and six vocalists rotating in. Together they crafted Thievery Corporation's wonderful blend of electronic bossa nova, dub, and jazz.

The show was an energetic tour-de-force. Thievery Corporation went through their entire catalog, with special emphasis given to their two most recent albums, The Richest Man in Babylon and The Cosmic Game. They played all of their best known songs, including "Lebanese Blonde," ".38.45 (A Thievery Number)," and "The State of the Union." Tracks from The Cosmic Game, including "Sol Tapado" and "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter," were given preference, though as quieter songs, they couldn't match the incredible energy of the dub tracks from earlier albums. "Richest Man in Babylon," perhaps their best known dub track, was saved for the encore, with Garza on acoustic guitar. However, it was the last song of their set that absolutely blew me away. The band went all out, putting everything into the music while the audience went nuts. It was one of the best moments of all the concerts I've seen.

Hilton and Garza didn't say anything the whole night, but all the singers worked the crowd to get them pumped up. Since many of the musicians and vocalists have appeared on Thievery Corporation albums, they had their parts down pat, playing them with a skill and energy that a session musician wouldn't have been able to match. I love many things about live performances, but one of my favorite aspects of going to a concert is that you get to see and hear artists in a totally new context. With so many live instruments and wonderful singers, I realized Thievery Corporation is truly much more than just two guys behind some mixers and gadgets.

Due to the combination of a high ticket price ($32.50) and a more adult-friendly sound than many electronic acts, the audience was a little older than I expected. I was probably one of the youngest people there; most seemed to be in their late 20s or early 30s. However, this didn't lessen my enjoyment of the concert at all, as everyone was really into the music. The Vic proved a nice venue, and its terraced rows—left over from its theater days—give everyone a great view of the stage.

I had a wonderful time and highly recommend checking out Thievery Corporation next time they pass through.