Concert Reviews

Thievery Corporation Celebrates Multiculturalism at the Fillmore

Thievery Corporation played at the Fillmore Auditorium Friday night.
Thievery Corporation played at the Fillmore Auditorium Friday night. Chris Walker
The tickets were steep for the Fillmore Auditorium: $60 a pop with service fees. Then the show’s high-profile opening act, Julian Marley, canceled because of an illness in his family. But even so, Thievery Corporation more than delivered during a headlining performance on Friday, October 26, transforming the chandeliered venue on Colfax Avenue into a global dance party during a set that spanned more than two hours.

Of course, Thievery Corporation is a veteran outfit at this point, having made listeners sway and groove since 1995, when it began carving out a special place for itself within the broad tent of electronic music with a distinguished sound that blends trip-hop, down-tempo, dub and world music. Even as popular strains of electronic music have been fickle and gone through multiple evolutionary phases — from trance and drum and bass to dubstep and EDM — Thievery Corporation, under founding DJs Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, has remained true to a sonic vibe that just oozes coolness, the kind of soundtrack you’d want bumping in the background as you sit on a beautiful beach, sipping something delicious while you peer through aviator glasses at all the beautiful people.

click to enlarge Puma singing lead vocals. - CHRIS WALKER
Puma singing lead vocals.
Chris Walker
“Thievery Corp always makes me think of elevator music,” one friend remarked to me before the show.

Well, sure, I guess if we’re talking about the hippest fucking elevator out there.

Friday night’s show at the Fillmore was indeed a hip affair, part of a tour in support of the group’s latest album, 2018’s Treasures From the Temple, a decidedly dub-heavy album within Thievery Corporation's repertoire that was recorded in Jamaica. Similar to their produced music, the group’s live show featured a cornucopia of musicians from various countries, including guest vocalists Natalia Clavier, LouLou Ghelichkahani, Mr. Liff, Puma, and Racquel Jones.
click to enlarge Ashish Vyas — a.k.a. Hash — wore a felt tiger head for some of the songs. Appropriate for Halloween weekend. - CHRIS WALKER
Ashish Vyas — a.k.a. Hash — wore a felt tiger head for some of the songs. Appropriate for Halloween weekend.
Chris Walker
Eric Hilton, one of the group’s co-founders, did not appear to be in the house on Friday, but his DJ-in-crime Rob Garza aptly fulfilled the electronic elements to back a band that included two percussionists, a horn section, the guitar/sitar maestro Rob Myers, and the group's stern-faced badass on bass (who spent most of the show either high-stepping around the stage in tempo or skulking around like a hungry predator which, aptly, included donning a tiger-head) Ashish Vyas – sometimes known as "Hash."

The group played up tracks from the new album, but also launched into plenty of classics and crowd favorites such as “Lebanese Blonde,” “The Richest Man in Babylon,” “Amerimaka,” and “Sweet Tides.”

The result was a two-hour love fest and celebration of multiculturalism. Precisely at a time when our country feels like it’s closing in on itself, sealing itself off from the outside world, Thievery Corporation brought the global sounds and joys of human expression — the twang of a sitar, accented vocals of various languages — to a Denver auditorium. Though the show was not overtly political — at least between songs — its nod to multiculturalism was a refreshing reminder that one thing everyone can connect on is music. And it's reminders like those that we so desperately need right now.
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker