Lounge lizards they may appear, but the Washington duo Thievery Corporation clearly don’t envisage a pipe and slippers evening at Camden’s suitably exotic Koko. Far from it, as this leg of their European tour becomes a highly energetic romp through some of the best moments in their increasingly impressive career.
Having recently released their fourth studio album The Cosmic Game, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton seem keen to emphasise the human nature of their music over the electronic. Sure, they both direct operations from a pair of turntables, but opt to play second fiddle at the back of the stage, whilst an assortment of vocalists come and go at the front.
Sensibly, they choose not to major on the fruits of their recent collaborations with David Byrne and Perry Farrell – whilst these were good moments on the record, they would sound out of place in any other guise given the absence of the vocalists.
It’s not even as if they’re missed, either, and for that we can thank French singer Lou Lou, Mexican vocalist Karina and the ebullient Sista Pat. Karina is especially endearing, her long legs winding around the stage and her exaltations for the crowd to sing along taken up immediately. Sista Pat brings plenty of energy, whilst Lou Lou offers the softer, ‘lounge’ side of the Corporation. These three interchange with two luminously dressed dancehall toasters who get the crowd pumping during 38:45 and Liberation Front.
A mild criticism of the Corporation in the past on record is that the beats are too soft. Not tonight, as the two drummers bring an awesome power to the down strokes of Facing East. They play flawlessly but allow plenty of room for improvisation, the beating heart of the gig. Meanwhile other instrumental treats come in the form of sitar, trumpet and saxophone, all part of the lush orchestration, along with turntable effects and trippy imagery projected behind the band by DVD.
Garza and Hilton remain on their perch at the back, reluctant to have any part in the ovations until the band are fully introduced. Then they do, bringing the house down with four encores, the last of which takes the vibe down slow for Marching The Hate Machine. A truly exotic evening of grooves and textures comes to a sultry end, with barely a soul in Koko’s full house able to keep their feet still.