This article was originally published on Exron Music
The ability to turn a two-act show into a festival is a craft unto itself. This is precisely why witnessing Thievery Corporation in the flesh isn't your average concert experience, especially since they're categorized, in a general sense, as an "electronic" enterprise. What you hear (on record) and what you see (on stage) are two entirely different experiences — equally captivating but set apart by multiple layers. Known for a cross-cultural coverage of genres and disciplines while cooking in the studio, they bring along a deep roster of vocalists and instrumentalists when they perform before an audience.
It only made sense, then, that they had Emancipator open their first show of the year at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. The DJ and producer, who has been touring with violinist Ilya Goldberg for over a decade now, was the perfect premise to the Thievery Corporation set that lay ahead. It was a starter to the main course, and sure enough, the evening as a whole turned out to be chef's-kiss spectacular.
The March 9 concert was essentially a masterclass on how to leave a lasting impression on a crowd. Douglas Appling took the stage beside his infallible stringman, putting on an elegantly explosive display of coexistence. It's not every day that we get to watch the delicate waves of a violin embellishing an array of mechanized beats. Emancipator's job was to disarm an already enlightened audience, and he succeeded beyond measure.
The pair comprising Rob Garza and Eric Hilton then came on, though someone new to their work would most likely not have been able to distinguish the duo from all the other artists surrounding them. Of course, there is something eye-catching about Hilton playing the sitar amid a sea of Western instruments, but nothing about his demeanor says that he's one half of the commanding force behind Thievery Corporation. On that platform, they're a family of musicians focused only on giving their spectators something to remember beyond the concert's curfew.
Emancipator's brief yet memorable set prepared everyone for the main event — it was complimentary by design, even if both acts don't always play together. After putting a spell on those in attendance with gems like "Black Lake" and "Tangier Sour," he bowed out to welcome Thievery Corporation. With a rotating lineup of vocalists including (but not limited to) Mr. Lif , Shana Halligan and Laura Vall, the genre-spanning exhibition showcased a diverse range of talent through an eclectic catalog. The 25-song performance featured everything from improvised jams to fan favorites like "Lebanese Blonde" and "(The Forgotten People)," making sure no one went home wishing for more.
This rich blend of atmospheric trip-hop spanned influences from all over the globe, and it's quite tough to categorize. Some cuts were outright reggae while others mixed downtempo beats with loungy hip-hop — through it all, you could see where the music was coming from all thanks to the musicians present. Regardless of category, including instruments and vocalists on stage makes the world of a difference. Thievery Corporations and Emancipator are privy to this, and hence, in a class of their own.