Review: Mason Bates’ KC Jukebox: ‘Thievery Corporation’ at The Kennedy Center

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The ethereal and complex mixture of sounds that Thievery Corporation has produced over a 22-year career has given them lots of material and a dedicated following. Their show last night at The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall showed that the band’s creative take on mixing genres also lends itself well to a live orchestration. Thievery Corporation’s following were out in full force to a performance that did not disappoint, defying the boundaries of classical and club music.

The performance is one of the most original and immersive programs I have seen at The Kennedy Center. Part of the Mason Bates’ KC Jukebox series, which does a good job of presenting contemporary compositions by emerging artists. Led by Composer-In-Residence Mason Bates; this is one of those initiatives that has an important impact, as it breathes life to the classical music field by promoting experimental offerings and presenting these to new audience, all within an established venue.

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

The program last night included two classical works; one, “The Rise of Exotic Computing,” composed by Mason Bates; and a classic piece, “Finale from Sinfonietta,” by Argentine Astor Piazzolla. The piece by Mason Bates was a delightfully complex composition that delivered that melding of electronic and classical music. With Composer Teddy Abrams at the helm, the night was off to a terrific start. After the first set with these two pieces, Mason Bates came out to welcome the crowd. The excitement for Thievery Corporation has been building all along and the packed house cheered loudly for DC’s own musical duo.

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton are at the center of Thievery Corporation and surely know how to put on a show. With an uncanny ability to mix different influences ranging from Jamaican music, Bossa Nova, Indian trip hop, rock, hip hop and even shoe gazing sounds; the duo welcomed new arrangements from young classical music composers that included Timo Andres, Teddy Abrams, Olga Bell, and Christopher Cerrone. With musicians from mostly the National Symphony Orchestra, each song once familiar took on a new tone and became alive at the now expansive Concert Hall.

It was an unusual night, surely, but one that showed that collaborations across seemingly different fields can yield inventive results. The quality of the music was only exacerbated by the wonderfully put together performances with two extra DJs, Striz of Groove Distribution fame and Justin Reed, a minimalist avant garde enthusiast hailing from the Midwest.

The entire stage looked like a combination between a club and the gorgeous concert hall that it is. With changing ambiance courtesy of a fantastic lighting production and a staging that made it possible for even the 15-member orchestra to stand out; The Kennedy Center turned out to be the perfect place for Thievery Corporation. Each song featured a different orchestration, which made it all feel like we were witnessing several different mini-concerts with songs that each conveyed a particular mood. The diverse crowd took it all in, with some people getting up and dancing to the different beats and rhythms, while others swaying from their chairs; there was a definite cool vibe throughout the night.

Mason Bates. Photo courtesy of The Kennedy Center.

Some of the highlights of the night included the performance of “Until the Morning,” arranged by Anna Clyne at the top of the performance. Another of Thievery Corporation’s biggest hits “A Gentle Dissolve,” arranged by Olga Bell brought loud cheers and a brilliant take on the now classic track.

By the end of the performance the entire crowd rose for a standing ovation and a few were chanting for more. The band gracefully came back for a bow, but there was no encore. It was an amazing performance that turned out to be a one-of-a-kind night for the ages.

Set list by Thievery Corporation:
“Until the Morning”
“Richest Man in Babylon”
“Ghetto Matrix”
“Weapons of Distraction”
“Depth of My Soul”
“Sweet Tides”
“Lebanese Blonde”
“Saudade”
“Forgotten People”
“Heaven Gonna Burn your Eyes”
“Love Is No Heart”
“A Gentle Dissolve”
“Marching the Hate Machines”

Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission.

Mason Bates’s KC Jukebox: Thievery Corporation performed for one night on Monday, May 15, 2017, at The Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets to future events, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or Toll-Free at (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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