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Last Night: Thievery Corporation at the House of Blues

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Thievery Corporation
House of Blues
October 5, 2009

Better than: Staying at home and watching Mad Men.

Fresh off back-to-back appearances at Austin City Limits and Stubbs, Thievery Corporation was still bright-eyed for its third show in as many days late Sunday night at House of Blues in Dallas.

Inside, the sweaty and expectant crowd breathed in the scent of sparked bud spiking the condensed club air. Video clips of Bob Marley, Buddhist monks and a strangely disturbing pencil-thin contortionist looped on screens that flanked and backed the stage. And, presiding on a platform above the stage, was the DJ duo that started all of this back in 1995.

At the core of Thievery Corporation are Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, who employ a passel of supporting singers and musicians, including Germany's Ancient Astronauts and a rotating lineup of four lead singers. Despite the diversity of voices, Thievery Corporation maintains a distinct sound based on repeated themes. The mating of reggae and Indian influences with smooth, jazzy electronica belies the political nature of the lyrics on the Washington, D.C. duo's fifth studio album, Radio Retaliation.

Garza and Hilton have been criticized for not breaking out of the box (I'm looking at you, Pitchfork), but the truth is, if you like what Thievery Corporation has done in the past, then you're probably just going to keep on liking them. And, sure enough, the crowd left the House of Blues satisfied last night, having gotten a mix of the new from Radio Retaliation, like Femi Kuti's fantastic "Vampires," along with The Cosmic Game staples "Lebanese Blonde," "Amerimacka," "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter," and, during the second encore, "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)."    

The merry-go-round of singers--I counted seven in all--worked to keep up the pacing and hold the crowd's attention. The four lead ladies, all clad in black, smoothly danced in and out as necessary, moving their bodies with the litheness of snakes. The hypnotizing quality of the slower songs made me wish for a couch just so I could lie down and absorb it all.

Without any herbal enhancements, of course.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I made the mistake of reading Pitchfork's negative review of Radio Retaliation beforehand and almost decided not to go. I need to read less Pitchfork.

By The Way: There was an assortment of people walking around wearing what appeared to be 3D shades. Did I miss something?

Random Note: I ran into my 10th grade history teacher, Mr. Bush, who taught me one of the important themes of history: Children hide their sins in the city.

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