The Scene: Red Rocks was a sea of neon, feathers, tribal face paint, and raincoats on Friday night when Thievery Corporation took over the venue for their annual throw-down. Our crew was some 25 strong as we rolled into the parking lots in a blacked out party bus celebrating the birthday’s of several friends. We were ushered to the far lower South lot with the other busses where we continued the celebration and got primed for a night of Funk, wobbly bass, and Sitar jams. While the walk through the parking lot revealed a throng of scantily clad teenagers, once inside we were glad to discover we weren’t the oldest people on hand to party with the mighty Thievery Corporation and friends.
Opener: Afrolicious. In what landed them atop my list for “opener of the year,” San Francisco’s Afrolicious put on a stellar thirty minute set to start the evening out on the good foot, if you will. I didn’t even know these guys were on the bill until the day before the show, but from the moment they hit the stage their infectious energy was reverberating around the rocks and winning fans from all walks of life.
Simply put this set was a full fledged Afro-Funk dance party. They had a full three piece horn section, four separate people handling vocal duties, a conga player, and even a knob twiddling, laptop wielding DJ who helped to the energy high and the beats just synthetic enough for the EDM fans in the crowd to get their boogie on. Their mind-blowing set included tracks like “Revolution” from their fantastic debut EP Pleasuretime. If you just can’t get enough funk, check out this band . . . you’ll be very glad you did!
Beats Antique: As a light rain began to fall, the lights went down and Beats Antique took the stage to an enormous roar from the crowd. Judging by the reaction, I’d say it was fair to say that there were as many people on hand to see them as there were to see the headliner, Thievery Corporation.
While the music is good, the centerpiece of the Beats Antique live show is Belly Dancer Zoe Jakes. As the ominous beats throb and wobble around her, she twists, undulates, and whirls like a dervish to the delight of the crowd staring in slack jawed amazement. The group explored Middle Eastern and Eastern European sounds that blended acoustic instruments with electronic sounds for a bulk of their hour long set as Jakes came and went changing costumes and being joined by another dancer from time to time. Together they danced with giant feathers, and even took to the drums when a pair of snare drums were brought out for them to pound on as the set came to an end. Now, to be honest, I’m not sure those drums were mic’d but it was all part of the show, and what a show it was.
If you missed them this time around, they will be celebrating Halloween a few days early this year at The Fillmore in Denver on Saturday October 27th. Tickets are on-sale for that show now.
Thievery Corporation: I have seen Thievery Corporation several times over the last 3 years, and I’ve got to say that their show on Friday night at Red Rocks was right up near the top of the list for me. Despite some light rain and swirling winds, Thievery’s travelling band of minstrels wow’d us all with a blend of sounds from the Middle East, the worlds of Hip-Hop, Reggae, and Acid House and even a trip into Psychedelia with a remix of The Doors “Strange Days.”
Overseeing the proceedings from two platforms near the back of the stage, the masterminds of the Corporation Rob Garza and Eric Hilton held things together on the turntables as the band played around them layering horns, Guitar, Sitar, percussion, and, of course, vocals into the mix. Early on the group dropped one of their most well known compositions when they slipped into “Lebanese Blonde” off their 2000 album The Mirror Conspiracy to the delight of thousands of fans who did their best to dance to the downtempo masterpiece.
Things picked up a bit when DC rapper Mr. Lif took to the mic to drop his rhymes on tracks like “Radio Retaliation,” and when longtime Thievery collaborators Rootz and Z hit the stage for “Numbers Game,” one of the evening’s highlights. As if the rotating cast of singers, and the eight piece live band, wasn’t enough, Zoe Jakes and the other dancer from Beats Antique emerged a couple of times during the set to add some more eye candy to the stage.
Throughout the evening, at least 50 lucky fans and friends of the band danced and chilled the night away in a makeshift lounge set up at the rear of the stage, behind the band. This gave the stage a very laid back and clubby feel that was a perfect fit with the music as people grooved along with songs like “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter,” and “The Richest Man In Babylon.” As the show came to a close, many of those dancers, and a bunch of folks from the crowd, filled the stage alongside the band, Jakes, and members of Afrolicious, to dance to one more song before the band left the stage and we were left to collect ourselves, our things, and head down the hill to resume the party elsewhere. Thievery Corporation may not be the highest energy band out on the scene right now, but there is no doubt they know how to throw a party, and there when they are in town next time, I know where I’ll be!
Stage Presence: A
Set / Light show: B