Show Review: Moby and Kelli Scarr at The Warfield, 10/15/09

by Dakin Hardwick on October 17, 2009

Oh no, I'm shredding again! Out of the doorway, like bullets on tin!

Oh no, I'm shredding again! Out of the doorway, like bullets on tin!

I first listened to Moby’s most recent record back in July. It’s an album called Wait For Me, and it’s a very calm album. I listened to it once straight through, and I was very disappointed. I thought it was kind of boring, and determined that I would probably never listen to it again. I didn’t think much about this fact until he announced tour dates, which was a surprise, since he didn’t play live to promote Last Night, which was a good, high energy dance record. I listened to it again, and concluded that I didn’t think that this was going to be a particularly good show if this was the material he was going to be focused on. Then, he pulled a fine rock star move.

He learned that funding was going to be cut to battered women’s shelters in California, and proclaimed that he was donating all profits from the California dates on the tour to CPEDV. CPEDV is a fine organization, and despite the fact that public protest led the state to reinstate some funding, they could always use some help. (This is the last time, for now, that I soap box on this site for this cause. Unless something else bad happens.)  I decided that I needed to support this, and also kept my review of the current record in my head, so as to not hurt ticket sales. No matter what your feelings are about Moby the musician, Moby the person seems to really care about causes that are worth caring about.

Well, I gave the record one more listen on my way to the show.  I still don’t like it.  I feel kind of bad, since Moby himself is very proud of it.  I tried hard to get psyched for the show, but I just couldn’t do it.  I grabbed some fair trade iced coffee with soy milk at a local cafe, mostly to energize, but also because it seemed an appropriate thing to do. (Well, tea would be more appropriate.) I decided to try to keep my mind open throughout the show, and not let my feelings affect this show.

Kelli Scarr opened the show. She sings a lot of the vocals on the new record, and I understand her influence on the record with this solo set. She opened her brief set singing a wordless melody. She looped it, then sang a bit more. She ended up creating her back up band with her voice and a petal. It was beautiful. Her sound was very delicate, but didn’t drift to the background. Her voice was soulful, but not over bearing. She played a little guitar and keyboard, but her main instrument is her voice. I found myself really enjoying her, even though she embodied  everything that I didn’t like about Wait For Me.

Moby came on stage holding his guitar, and played some mellow chords. His drummer appeared, and throughout the song, the rest of the band came out. The song was pretty, reminding me of Sigur Ros when they are at their most melancholy. I’m a bit worried that the bulk of the show was going to be like this. The next song, the title track off of Wait For Me, is played, and he brings out Kelli Scarr to sing her part. She comes out, takes the microphone, and absolutely owns the song. She’s belting with the rich intensity of Grace Slick, which despite sounding similar, also looks frighteningly similar. It feels like a completely different person than the subdued singer/songwriter that performed earlier. She’s ferocious, and is upstaging her band leader on this one. Not to forget the song itself, which has a crunch to it that’s missing on record. The song is pure rock n roll in this setting, not just a bit of background music.

The band continued this energy throughout the set, giving the mellowness of the new record an emotional beating in performance. He seems to have wanted to do a sad record, and live he’s able to convey that without being boring. He does another song from this record, and also does “Flower,” from his 1999 breakthrough record Play, giving it a similar feel to the songs off the new record.

He proceeds to thank the crowd numerous times, and then informs us that the next few songs will be “stupid dance songs.” Now, Moby has indeed written some great mindless dance songs, but has always insured that there is some excellent musicianship hiding within those.  Also, despite his label as an electronic artist, he has a pretty full band on stage. He had two female singers on stage nearly all night, a live drummer, a bassist, a keyboardist, a violinist, and Moby himself handling guitar and bongos. There wasn’t a laptop to be seen, and the only music not created live was stored as samples, which the drummer controlled. He kicked straight in to “Bodyrock,” which featured Moby’s guitar skills more than anything else. The next song was “Go,” his first ever single.

At this point, the show is in high gear. The crowd is moving frantically, and the band is working hard and having fun. He keeps the set list evenly distributed between new songs and songs off Play. It seems that he’s really proud of his current work, and has determined that the best way to present it is to mix it with the familiar.

Some highlights from the main set included a particularly moving rendition of “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?” featuring his gospel singer expressing a very pure pain. “We Are All Made Of Stars,” the only track played off 2003’s 18, was given a bit of a disco-funk treatment, in which he introduced it as his attempt to emulate KC & The Sunshine Band.

Moby as guitar player was in full force at this show. He was riffing and shredding and playing the blues as if Stevie Ray Vaughn were possessed by New Order. “Natural Blues” came of as a garage rock song from the 60’s, where “Raining Again” was practically heavy metal. This man can flip genres at the turn of a dime, and can play himself out of any situation. He doesn’t even use a pick; he used his bare fingers. If Joe Satriani wants to revive his G3 tour, I really think he should consider asking Moby along.

The encore included Kelli Scarr returning to lead vocals for the Everything Is Wrong track, “When It’s Cold, I’d Like To Die,” introduced as “My favorite song that I have ever written” by Moby.  After a well received reading of “Extreme Ways,” he introduced a song as “a song that can very in length from night to night; last night in LA we played it for 19 minutes, and we’re in San Francisco, where that’s a short song, so let’s see what happens.” He started the song exactly as it appears on Play, and his vocalist sang it exactly how it sounds on record. It didn’t feel like we were going to get a jam. Then, he stops the song cold. Plays a few notes. The singer duplicates it. The keep it up for about five minutes, and on the last try, he plays a fast riff that follows the entire neck of the guitar. She duplicates precisely. The song continues, with a few verses of “War Pigs” added for good measure, and inevitably ends a mere 14 minutes later.

The show ended with “Feeling So Real.” This is a classic mid-90’s house track, and has probably the best sounding bass drum in the history of recorded music. Both singers came out to handle the song, with his more gospel-oriented singer singing the main refrain, and Scarr handling the squeals, which were created on a computer, but she was able to duplicate them perfectly. The song stretched out almost as nicely “Honey,” and ensured that the night would end with everyone covered on sweat.

Here is the set list:


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Luke Dollar October 18, 2009 at 6:37 pm

Great review of a great show!! Thanks for writing this.


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