Having been to a lot of shows at the Fillmore Miami Beach in recent months, I never would have guessed that Thievery Corporation would be the most heavily attended of the bunch. Whether you credit Miami’s diverse base of music fans or the enduring appeal of the group’s hard-to-define sonic footprint, on a Tuesday night just 48 hours after the conclusion of Miami’s III Points festival, South Florida music fans came out in full force to support the Washington, D.C.-based artists.
Attempting to precisely define Thievery Corporation’s eclectic sound is a fool’s errand. In the group’s biography on its own website, “space rock, hip-hop, Indian trip-hop, dub, French torch songs, and shoe-gazer blissfulness” are listed as pillars of its sound. All of these styles and more were on display during Tuesday night’s two-hour show.
Since forming in D.C. in 1995, the duo of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton has released eight studio albums, most recently this year’s The Temple of I & I, which was the most heavily represented LP in the set list on Tuesday night. The two founding members brought along a murderer’s row of collaborators to Miami, performing with a full five-piece live band, and featuring five(!) different vocalists throughout the course of the show.
Cycling through vocalists after Eric Hilton sang the opening number, “Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)” while wearing a glowing LED crown, the group was fronted by Puma Ptah, Natalia Clavier, Raquel Jones and Mr. Lif at different intervals throughout the evening. Each vocalist brought a different style and energy to the stage that made for a remarkably diverse show.
With many instrumentalists on stage and founding member Rob Garza filling gaps in the sound as DJ, everything the group performed on Tuesday night sounded massive. The extra subwoofers placed on both sides of the stage didn’t hurt the cause either. The rhythm section was prominent all night, with bassist Ashish Vyas providing the group’s customary dub bass, and exciting auxiliary percussion solos pumping up the crowd on tracks like “Illumination,” which ignited one of the evening’s many dance breaks.
Clad in a scarlet scarf, Rob Myers handled lead guitar duties throughout the evening, and stole the show on the tracks where he sat at the bottom of Rob Garza’s DJ riser to play sitar. “Lebanese Blonde,” the sitar-featuring track off of 2000’s The Mirror Conspiracy and arguably the group’s biggest hit, was a standout.
The Washington, D.C. natives have always been outspoken about their progressive political stance, but there wasn’t a single mention of politics from the stage on Tuesday night. Instead, vocalist Natalia Clavier took time out of the show on a few occasions to ask the crowd to donate to Puerto Rico relief by participating in a raffle the band had organized for one of Ashish Vyas’ bass guitars.
The energy of the Miami crowd was infectious, and the members of the band didn’t seem to want the evening to end. After the main set came to a close, the group returned to the stage for three encores before eventually ending the two hour show with “Unified Tribes,” a 2011 single released in support of Occupy Wall Street protestors.
Something about this Thievery Corporation show felt like an event. Each member of the band seemed thrilled to be performing in Miami, repeatedly shouting out the city’s name over the course of the evening. The crowd didn’t stop moving from the first note to the last, and the show Thievery Corporation provided on Tuesday night felt like a reward for the vitality of the city.