Friday, February 3, 2023

Concert Review: Thievery Corporation, Revolution Live and SoFla’s Venue Woes

Before addressing Sunday night’s Thievery Corporation show at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale, it would be prudent to mention why they were playing there in the first place.

South Florida’s fractured venue landscape has been one of the most under-reported stories in our venerable entertainment ecosystem throughout 2022. Miami’s Space Park is in search of a new permanent home after being forced to vacate its original location, under-utilized venues like the Mizner Park and Pompano Beach amphitheaters have struggled to keep pace with bookings through one of the busiest concert seasons on record, and—perhaps most importantly—the Fillmore in Miami Beach has been closed for renovations since the summer. If there is a silver lining for the latter point, it’s that Fort Lauderdale’s Revolution Live has seen an uptick in the caliber of its bookings in the absence of the larger stalwart venue on South Beach. Look no further than the War on Drugs gig that took place there just a few months ago—a band that headlined Madison Square Garden earlier this year was relegated to the 1,000-cap Himmarshee club in order to book a date in our region.

Sunday night’s Thievery Corporation show at Revolution is yet another example of this phenomenon. When I first covered an appearance by the Washington D.C. dub group in South Florida back in 2017, it was a sold-out gig at the Fillmore, and I’m sure they could have sold that venue out again on Sunday. And yet, like so many other mid-tier acts this year, the group ended up playing a packed-to-the-gills show at Revolution instead. Ultimately, the difference this time around is that the intimate booking seemed to be a detriment rather than a lucky chance to catch a great band in a small space.

The night began with a thoroughly unremarkable opening set by the DJ/violinist duo Emancipator, one that surely fit the evening’s vibe well and did nothing to offend, yet seemed to drone on well past the point of overstaying its welcome. By the time Thievery Corporation took the stage at 9:30, the crowd had thickened to the point of being wholly uncomfortable, and any sightlines I had enjoyed for the past two and a half hours were long gone.

Before I go any further, let’s get this out of the way: I did not arrive late to this show. In fact, I was in line before the doors even opened at 7 p.m., hoping to snag one of the venue’s coveted balcony or rail spots. Unfortunately, those were all spoken for by the time I made it inside, and I don’t count myself among those intrepid concertgoers who brave the floor at a Revolution show on a Sunday night. And so, once the headlining set began, I found myself thrust into a nomadic existence, migrating through the venue in search of somewhere—anywhere—I could actually hear the music that was being performed, having already accepted that I would not be able to actually see the band on stage. Alas, my search yielded mixed results: I spent a stretch of time against the wall upstairs by the soundboard before eventually settling downstairs by the doors, doing my best to discern the forest for the trees of muddy sound.

Whether this was the fault of a crummy mix or simply the result of 1,000 people shouting conversations at each other, the fact is that the music was practically indiscernible for the majority of the show. The drums were there, as was the trademark dubby bass, but anything in the mid or treble range was close to absent throughout the gig, from the group’s characteristic sitar to any of the many singers’ lead vocals. 

I wish I could write about how great Thievery Corporation was on Sunday night, about how favorites like “Lebanese Blonde” and “The Richest Man In Babylon” jumped off the stage and the group’s talented musicians were locked into a groove that did justice to its unique blend of reggae, dub and trip-hop music. And frankly, I’m confident that all of the above is true—I like this band a lot, and they have never disappointed me before in the few times I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live.

The truth is that those points are all assumptions, and I can’t say I enjoyed the show because I barely even heard it, much less saw it. For the sake of South Florida’s music fans and the artists who make the trek down to perform for us, I hope that this was an aberration and not the new state of our live music scene. I hope that the majority of the fans in attendance Sunday night were able to enjoy the show more than I was. Most of all, I hope the Fillmore reopens soon, because after Sunday night, that day can’t come soon enough.

For more of Boca magazine’s arts and entertainment coverage, click here.

James Biagiotti
James Biagiotti
James Biagiotti is a native of Boca Raton, a marketing professional in South Florida, and the former Web Editor of Boca Raton magazine. He is an avid music fan who spends far too much time listening to, dissecting, and traveling to see his favorite bands. He is also, unfortunately, a devoted Miami Dolphins fan.

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