Show Review: Thievery Corporation w/ AM & Shawn Lee at The Fox Theater – Oakland, 9/16/2011

by Dakin Hardwick on September 19, 2011

Clavier striking a pose, Myers looking cool on the sitar, and Rob Garza on keys, one of the masterminds behind all of this

One of my favorite experiments is to go see a band that I know nothing about. Usually this tends to be a low key affair, in a small venue somewhere. It’s rare for a band to play a venue in the 3,000+ capacity range that I’ve managed to miss. Although it can easily be a gamble, the pay off can be great. On the warm Indian Summer night, I took the new band challenge.

Opening the show was a band called AM & Shawn Lee, a supergroup of sorts. Their story is that AM, a musician that blends together 60’s psychedelic rock and modern, downtempo electronica, was listening to KCRW and heard Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, an artist the was doing a very similar thing. They put their heads together and released an album of lush, 60’s inspired rock. The band walked on stage at 8:15 to a very loose crowd.

AM & Shawn Lee

It was about 15 minutes in, during the disco rock rave up of “Promises Are Never Far From Lies” that the crowd started to fill in. The folks in the back & in the lobby started to pay attention to what was going on, and folks started to “feel it.” Slowly but surely, as the band played on, the audience grew, and gradually became more excited about what was going on on stage. They also new how to read the crowd, and played up the disco and the groove, and turned down the guitar driven rock. There was some epic, swirling Korg playing during a wonderful instrumental piece, and the single, “Somebody Like You,” even turned on the more serious dancers, getting some actual hips going. They closed their set out with a cover of Ozark Mountain Daredevil’s “Jackie Blue,” turning it into a blissful cross between Yes, Air, and The Bee Gees.

The room was once sparse, was pretty solidly packed by the time Thievery Corporation took the stage. They opened with the minimalist groove of “A Warning (Dub).” Then, the first of many in a revolving cast of vocalists came on stage. The spunky Natalia Clavier jumped out to sing “Web Of Deception” and the sitar – driven jazz number “Lebanese Blonde.” And, seemingly as quickly as she lept on stage, she was gone, replaced by the stunning LouLou Ooldouz Ghelichkhani, a woman whose soulful voice sent chills down my spine. She seemed to remain on stage for even less time than Clavier, but she owned the stage with her renditions of “Take My Soul,” the trip hop single off their latest record Culture Of Fear, followed by the reggae/house fusion of “Until The Morning.”

LouLou Ooldouz Ghelichkhani

At this point, you are probably asking yourself why I know all these song titles for a band that I have never heard before. Well, at The Fox, it’s pretty easy so get a spot right behind the light board, and I was actually following along with the lighting guys setlist while taking notes. To any fellow budding music journalists out there, this is a pretty prime spot to work from at this venue.

The first part of the show seemed like they were simply introducing singers. Next up were the identical twin, dreadlocked soul singers Zeebo & Rootz, and they sang on the Sly Stone flavored “Liberation Front.” These two singers were amazingly animated, and were probably the best performers of the singers. They had their dance moves down, and played off each other nicely. In fact, there was a third singer on stage with them, and he was barely noticeable next to the funky brothers.

Myers, looking almost as cool playing guitar as he does sitar.

This show was one of the singular most eclectic nights of music I have ever experienced. Other highlights included the political reggae of “Radio Retaliation,” featuring Sleepy Brown, the merengue meets Indian raga of “Illumination,” where sitarist Rob Myers practically battled percussionist Frank Orrall. We were greeted with the seductive burn of another Clavier sung number, “Is It Over.” I thought this was the sexiest the set could get, and then Ghelichkhani comes back out to sing “La Femme Parellel.” To imagine the song, take one part Sade, one part Portishead, one part James Bond, and do it in French.

The show could have safely ended there, and I’m pretty sure we the audience would have felt they got their money’s worth. Then, local rapper Mr Lif, dressed in a full suit, tie, and hat, brought the show into full hip hop mode. This was possibly the only genre untouched at this point. We also got a high energy performance by percussionist Orral on David Byrne’s “The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.” He ran laps around the stage without missing a note on this track that sounded like a latin Talking Heads song.

The main set closed with all of the male performers taking the stage for “Warning Shots,” a big dancehall number that practically exploded on stage. This, of course, was a tease to the real closer. We had a four song encore, which included the sitar based funk of (The Forgotten People), and then kept the dancehall vibe going with three more songs, closing with all singers on stage plus seemingly every blonde woman in the audience for the high energy set closer “Coming From The Top”

The experiment proved to be a success. This set was over two hours long, and it felt like 15 minutes. I admit, I wish the singers would have stayed on stage for longer stretches, but in whole it was one killer show.

Clavier, horns, and 1/2 of the brains behind Thievery Corporation: Eric Hilton

Setlist:

A Warning (Dub)
Web Of Deception
Lebanese Blonde
Take My Soul
Until The Morning
Liberation Front
Overstand
Radio Retaliation
Numbers Game
Illumination
Is It Over
La Femme Parallel
Amerimacka
Culture Of Fear
Vampires
Heart Is The Lonely Hunter
Sound The Alarm
Assault On Babylon
Warning Shots


(The Forgotten People)
Sweet Tides
Richest Man In Babylon
Coming From Top

All Photos by David Price (Except for the AM & Shawn Lee Photo) Many more stunning pictures from this set can be found here.

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