Review and photos: Thievery Corporation take Tampa fans on a sweaty, sensational trip
It was as hot as July inside and out on Saturday, and the line wrapped around the corner of the Ritz Ybor as fans of all interest lined up to witness the live aesthetic that is Thievery Corporation.
Yes, they’re classified as dance music, but that’s misleading. With instruments including a sitar, saxophone and conga drums and seven interchanging vocalists, TC samples world genres and integrates messages of socio-political awareness and peace. Calling it only dance music is like calling the Beach Boys only surf music.
Thievery Corporation formed in 1995 with DJ duo Rob Garza and Eric Hilton at the core of the musical enterprise. Various collaborators from across the world contribute to each album and are incorporated into the live shows.
Their fifth album, Radio Retaliation, hit stands last fall and the tour finally made its way down to Tampa for Thievery’s first show within our city limits.
I missed the first band, German duo Ancient Astronauts. When I asked fans about them, I was told either that they stunk or that it was “just a guy drinking beer and messing with his laptop,” and concluded some attendees hadn’t even noticed AA was performing.
As show time neared, a diverse crowd of hippies, blue-collars, dressed-up yuppies and plain-janes alike (mostly under 35) filled the Ritz with anticipation and body heat.
Without a hitch, just after 10 p.m., the lights dimmed and the stage lit up. Rob Garza looked down on the crowd and over the band like a master conductor from the middle of the stage. He was stationed behind a low rectangular LED screen housing the DJ stand. To his left and right were large LED screens that flashed various images throughout the night — Jesus, Che Guevara, messages about violence. Eric Hilton, however, was nowhere to be seen the entire night.
They opened with A Warning (Dub) and eased into Mandala with sitarist Rob Myers seducing the crowd with an Eastern edge. Everyone was smiling and getting into the vibe as the recognizable TC rhythms unfolded.
The first of the female chanteuses came out serenading with Lebanese Blonde, a crowd favorite from the Garden State soundtrack.
If you’re vertically challenged like myself, it was difficult to get a good view of the stage. The sound was phenomenal in the intimate venue, but the crowd was too dense for a mere peep up. So I inched my way through with the courteous “excuse me” and before I knew it, I was in the front right alongside the most amicable fans that graciously shared the show and their spots with me.
My 5-foot-3 self got lucky. Everything was in view. Singers and musicians alternated stage time, switching between songs. During any given song there were three to 10 performers onstage, all entertaining the crowd with their style and talent.
Myers (the sitarist) played directly in front of me, wearing orange sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt, switching between the sitar and lead guitar throughout the show. To my left was Ashish Vyas, a long-haired bassist playing barefoot. He sat on the stage Indian-style for slower songs and danced around on others. During the encore, he came out in only his red underwear. Maybe he got too hot.
Vyas, Myers and Garza anchored the stage while the other musicians and singers rotated songs.
The four alternating female vocalists were Lou Lou, Natalia Clavier, Sista Pat and Karina Zeviani. Each leading lady had her own ethnic fashion flair, dancing and singing style. They would sing solo and together, mostly in English but also in Spanish and Portuguese from what I could tell. They worked the audience, getting it to repeat choruses and sing them back. Later in the show, Natalia said to the crowd, “Tampa, would you mind if we always love you?”
Two of the male singers were Sleepy Wonder and Sitali. On most songs, they grouped with Sista Pat for the reggae/rap/African jams. One of the percussionists, Frank Orrall (with El John being the other), came out from behind the drums and sang a couple of Latin-infused numbers.
In the far left corner were to the two horn players, saxophonist Frank Mitchell (wearing an Afro) and trumpeter Dave Finnell (in sunglasses and pigtail braids).
That’s 14 band members. It was a lot to absorb. A full sound. International dynamic. Flashing projections. The heat. Incoherent cheers of the crowd (some had taken advantage of the bar). Interchanging performers. All up close.
I’m an average fan of the band, but all the pure energy, intent and passion they threw down ... it felt like the crowd picked it up. It all moved so fluidly — beats, lights, vocals, projections and lyrics. The combinations seemed endlessly enjoyable. It got to a point where sweat didn’t matter.
Later in the show, Garza introduced the band and said it was Thievery Corporation’s first time in Tampa and that (by the looks of things) he thinks they’ll be back. He also noted it was the saxophonist’s birthday.
They did three encores and the crowd loved it. During the last song the band invited girls onstage to dance. Naturally I took advantage of the moment and got hoisted on up there. Some girls danced around, giddy, while others sweatily sloshed towards the male singers/performers. It seemed absurd not to dance.
I felt high. I was amped. The music was invigorating, and it wasn’t until it stopped I realized how elated it made me feel. If someone had gone to the show not having heard TC before, I imagine they would have appreciated their delicate fusion of multicultural modern music.
After 27 songs, at a quarter past midnight, the stage emptied. Everyone was sweaty. Some lingered close to the stage to hang onto the last moments of what just happened. The rest diffused into the side rooms and outside to cool off and reminisce in the unforgiving heat of a Florida October.
A Warning (Dub)
Shadows Of Ourselves
Until the Morning (remix)
The Numbers Game
La Femme Parallel
All That We Perceive
The Heart's a Lonely Hunter
Sound the Alarm
The Forgotten People
The Richest Man in Babylon
El Pueblo Unido
Coming From the Top
-- Review and photos by Stephanie Bolling, tbt*. Check out more photos below!