TVD Live Shots: Thievery Corporation with Dessa at the Wiltern, 12/17

Rob Garza and Eric Hilton continue to up their game with what undoubtedly was one of their finest live performances of 2021. From start to finish, the Thievery Corporation’s gathering in Los Angeles was spectacular and a much-needed diversion from all the chaos most have experienced over the past few years. If this show is an indicator of things to come for Thievery, sign me up. 

When folks ask me about Thievery Corporation’s sound, I always answer the same way. “Thievery’s sound is like no other. It’s an eclectic mix of dub, electronic, rock, reggae, and lounge that is always evolving and never quite the same.” Since the band’s inception back in 1995, many have tried to imitate TC’s unique sound, yet few have even come close to the cosmic blueprint that Rob Garza and Eric Hilton laid out so many years ago. And 25+ years later, their indelible brand keeps getting stronger and their amazing fanbase continues to grow. Could all bands be so lucky?

Opening for Thievery Corporation on Friday night was Dessa. This multi-talented singer, songwriter, and of course, rapper, dazzled the thousands of fans in attendance with a killer set that highlighted why Thievery asked her to support their West Coast tour. Dessa’s unique brand of rap engaged the packed house from her very first note and didn’t let up until the lights flickered back on.

While not being surprised by her ridiculous talent as a performer or lyricist, what did catch me off guard was how engaged the crowd was (considering Dessa was the opener). Many in the general admission pit sang along with Dessa word for word throughout her entire set, and that’s rare in a world where many seem to blow off opening acts for photo moments, libations, or socializing with friends in the lobby. Check out Dessa live when you can, she’s awesome and well-worth the price of admission.

Following a brief intermission and stage change out, it was now time for the main attraction, Thievery Corporation. I recently saw one of their performances at the ultra-cool BeachLife Festival in Hermosa, and wondered if TC could improve upon their amazing midday set. As the crowd reached a “sardine-can” feel, house lights dimmed, and a pulsing rhythm took over the world-famous Wiltern Theatre. A bluish-purple glow enveloped the now foggy stage and out of the shadows came Thievery Corporation. “Assault on Babylon” (featuring Puma Ptah) was first out of the gate, and man his vocals were straight fire. What a way to start the evening.

Over the next hour and a half, fans of all ages were treated to 23 of Thievery Corporation’s most iconic tracks including “Lebanese Blond,” “Sweet Tides,” and “Voyage Libre.” As one might expect at a Thievery Corporation show, vocalists shift in and out throughout the night and fans bore witness to greats such as Natalia Clavier, Racquel Jones, Loulou Ghelichkhani, and Shana Halligan (just to name a few). My favorites from the evening included “Warning Shots” (featuring Racquel and Puma) and “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes” as the encore for the evening. Others I spoke with disagreed and felt “Forgotten People” was far and away the best track of the night.

And thinking back to my initial question as to whether TC could improve upon the BeachLife set I witnessed several months ago, the clear answer after this set was a resounding yes. Thievery Corporation’s performance at the Wiltern was brilliant and a testament to the continuing vision of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton. This band, hands down, is one of the best touring acts I have ever seen (and I have seen thousands). Catch ’em live when you can—it’ll be a show you won’t forget.


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