After 20 years, Thievery Corporation is still stealing the hearts of its fans.
The DJ collective returned to New York Saturday night to play at the Ford Amphitheater in Coney Island.
The off-the-beaten-path Brooklyn venue seemed fitting of a group that’s been successful for so long, yet never mainstream. They’re considered pioneers in electronic music, and have always done it on their own terms.
Operating under their own independent label since their beginning, they’ve continued to expand their musical horizons by challenging themselves and incorporating sounds, styles, and influences from around the globe.
Founding members Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have been making music and touring together for more than two decades, and they’ve surrounded themselves with band mates and collaborators whose backgrounds are as diverse as the sounds of Thievery Corporation itself.
This time around, the D.C.-based duo was promoting their eighth studio album, The Temple of I & I.
Still in the early stages of their current North American tour, they brought along many familiar faces.
Known for their wide array of sounds from album to album, the genre-defying group went decidedly reggae on The Temple of I & I, which was recorded in Gee-Jam Studio in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Before the show, Justin Behr, of New Providence NJ, who likes to play Thievery Corporation in his Art Gallery, described his feelings about the group.
“What I love about them is that they touch on so many different sounds and regions around the world,” he said. “It’s so comfortable watching them play because they’re just so relaxed and chill.”
Thievery Corporation’s live shows generally highlight just how talented and well-assembled the group is. An unsuspecting attendee could expect much of the music to be mixed and sampled through the turntables of Garza and Hilton but the driving force of the music is actually performed live, and it sounded every bit as good as any recording.
The only disappointment was the lack of a live horns section, which is often a part of the live experience.
Bassist Ashish “Hash” Vyas kept the mood relaxed Saturday as he moved the songs along with his bass lines while wandering back and forth on stage, taking his signature slow and high steps.
The drums of Jeff Franca and the elaborate percussion setup of Frank Orrall rounded out the stellar rhythm section, while guitar/sitar player Rob Myers performed in his own distinctive style.
Seeing Myers play the sitar at center stage was one of the highlights of the show- especially during crowd favorite “Lebanese Blonde,” which was featured in their encore.
The vocalists featured Saturday were longtime singers LouLou Ghelichkhani and Natalia Clavier, both of whom have beautiful and soulful voices.
Mr. Lif and Puma Ptah also showcased their distinctive sounds and style on stage. Lif is utilized for his rap and hip-hop based style, while Puma, a Caribbean born singer, stole the show when featured on the group’s reggae songs.
New collaborator, Racquel Jones, brought a new energy to the group with her distinctively rhythmic rap-based flair, as heard on “Letter to the Editor.”
Garza and Hilton, with their turntables and keyboards, were prominently positioned on a raised platform in the center of the stage, both physically and symbolically watching over what they created, curated and developed over the past twenty-something years.
Following the show, many happy fans were riding the high of the solid performance outside the intimate venue on the Coney Island boardwalk.
“(It was a) phenomenal show,” said Will Fahy of Brooklyn. “These guys have been doing this for so long (that) they were tight as could be. The musicianship, the sitar and the vocals were beautiful. Thievery Corporation just keeps getting better with age.”