Concerts

Thievery Corporation Is Bringing a Global Sound to The Van Buren in Phoenix

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation.
Rob Garza and Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation. Jen Maler

Shakespeare wrote “all the world’s a stage” back in 1599, long before multiculturalism was a part of the zeitgeist.

But in 2021, Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the creators of veteran electronica duo Thievery Corporation, are busy bringing the world to the stages they perform on, including a show on Wednesday, December 15, at The Van Buren in downtown Phoenix.

“Our music represents music from around the globe, and it is very multicultural, and when you see us live you really get a sense of that experience,” says Garza.

The pair started their music movement in 1995 in Washington, D.C.’s DuPont Circle area; their nightclub, the legendary Eighteenth Street Lounge, eventually became the name of their label.

For its first 22 years, Thievery Corporation produced nine albums that crossbred genres.

From the percussion power on their 1996 debut, Sounds of Thievery Hi-Fi, to the electronica gleam on Mirror Conspiracy in 2000, club favorites The Cosmic Game (2005) and Radio Retaliation (2008) and The Richest Man in Babylon (2002), the band's discography showcase its aptitude for styles like dubstep, jazz, dance music, rap, reggae, and Indian music.

The band then changed things up with 2014's Brazilian bossa-nova buffet, Saudade. Three years later, the group uprooted itself down to Jamaica to record two Kingston-meets-electronic downbeat releases, The Temple of I & I (2017) and the 2018 follow-up, Riches from the Temple.

Thievery Corporation’s most recent album release, 2020's Symphonik, is a recording of a 2017 live performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. A full orchestra accompanied the group on 11 classic Thievery Corporation tracks.

“We're really in love with lush string sounds. It’s really beautiful to have these sorts of re-interpretations of these classic Thievery songs with an orchestra,” says Garza.

The diversity of sounds that Thievery Corporation produces is echoed in the diversity of its associates.

Many part-time members have come and gone, but the current lineup includes guitarist-sitar player Rob Myers, drummer/percussion director Jeff Franca, keyboardist Will Rast, and percussionist Frank Orrall.

The international flair comes through with bassist Ashish “Hash” Vyas, a musician of Indian descent who grew up in the San Diego punk scene; LouLou Ghelichkhani, the longest-tenured female vocalist, who has roots in Paris and Iran; Natalia Clavier, the queen of rich timbre and vocal power and versatility, who was born in Buenos Aires; power hip-hopper and rapper Racquel Jones, a former Miss Jamaica runner-up; Ras Puma of the U.S. Virgin Islands; and Mr. Lif, a Bostonian with Barbadian roots.

Thievery Corporation had fortuitously decided to take a break from touring just as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"We had no shows on the books, so we didn’t have to cancel anything," Garza says. "It's really weird, and it was the first time we hadn’t toured since ’99 or something.”

For Garza, the downtime was productive. He was able to spend time with his 11-year-old son and work on solo projects like his full-length album, Daydream Accelerator, on his own Magnetic Moon label.

(Hilton, the more silent half of Thievery Corporation, stayed busy during the pandemic as well by releasing a trio of atmospheric, ambient instrumental albums: Infinite Everywhere, The Impossible Silence, and Ceremony.)

“I did really welcome the change,” admits Garza. “For me, I just love being able to have that time to be creative, and have a life,” he says, laughing. "But it's really more beautiful to be back on the road with everybody. You really feel the excitement and the energy, and the people's desire to see live music.”

Garza also is glad to be back on tour.

“Everybody that is up on the stage is just an incredible musician,” he says. “So, it’s really easy to get back into the groove, and we’re all like one big family. It just really feels natural.

“It’s surprising and rewarding, to be here 25 years later and successful and traveling around the world.”

Thievery Corporation. With Dessa. 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show. The Van Buren, 401 West Van Buren Street. Tickets are $39.50 in advance, $42 day of show.
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Mark C. Horn
Contact: Mark C. Horn