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Moby: Live in Hollywood

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The Greek Theater, Hollywood, CA—09/24/00

Though one is well aware of the extreme precision of Moby’s music, a music whose base is machines and other technological feats, one awaits a stiff concert where the man's presence is only justified by the strategic pushing of a few buttons that sets off a symphony of computers. To the contrary, Moby proves himself to be a creature of the stage and his show is a demonstration of his own explosive blend of techno-rock.

The opening act was carried out by the English trio Hybrid, young prodigies whose techno, somewhere between Orbital and The Crystal Method, successfully heated up the place. This debut could only be a good omen for what was to come since generally, opening bands are a painful stopgap.

Onstage Moby resembles a leaping imp. He runs, jumps on his keyboard, changes guitars, takes the mike, bangs on the congas, and then plays his keyboard. The show continually oscillates between energy and emotion that sometimes melt together in a final ecstatic moment. The musician also knows to show his humor and generosity. He took care to thank the city that was one of the first to open itself to his music and offered some acoustic quasi-improvised songs and tributes to some of his heroes like Neil Young. The encores were linked together without much of a respite, and as he was more concerned with the musical curfew imposed on the venue (the Greek Theater is anchored in one of the more posh residential neighborhood in LA where the neighbors are named Nicolas Cage, Gwen Stefani,...), he sacrificed some show biz moments of rest and working the crowd to quench the thirst of the audience. Nor did he fail to step back in order to profit from his English backup singer whose powerful voice only amplified the impact of his music.

The concert took place in the open-air amphitheatre that disappears into the forest of Griffith Park, at the foot of LA's famous observatory. A magical place in perfect osmosis with Moby’s music. Obviously the album Play had a good part of a show that was further adorned with his later techno classics.

While the live versions were faithful to the studio versions, infectious energy and omni present congas came to spice everything up. "My Weakness" got the concert off to a gentle start. The classics from this album followed: "Find My Baby" and "South Side". A muscular version of the "James Bond Theme" took the speed up a notch while "Bodyrock" set the crowd on fire and demonstrated that the successful marriage between electronic and rock proves more effective than the heavy greaser guitars of the moment (e.g. Kid Rock). The best passages of the concert, however, were his mid-tempo keyboard pieces and heady samples that slowly nibbled away at you until you were rendered totally hypnotized. "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" gracefully combined the chanteuse/back up singer's voice and the melancholy of the piece. "Natural Blues", far from giving a case of the blues, made the crowd travel to the depths of stirring samples. "Go", whose samples from the forest-associated Twin Peaks TV theme that first brought him recognition, brought a touch of strangeness to the show. Moby, who moreover greeted the magic of playing "Go" in the middle of this forest reminiscent of the TV series, couldn't have planned it any better as one of the show's actresses could be found among the spectators. "Everloving" slowly rose in strength until it completely enveloped the audience in its beauty. "The Sky Is Broken", one of the most discreet pieces from Play, with its monotonous phrasing and its bizarre, quasi-lethargic rhythms finished in a higher bid of powerful, allegorical keyboards for bigger emotion. "Feeling So Real" was rather surprising as it started with only a guitar and his back up singer's voice—then exploded into a fast techno version from the Everything Is Wrong album. The concert ended with the man and his sampler in an apocalyptic finale where light and rhythms accelerated in unison.

To see Moby onstage is an event in itself; his music, his presence, and the location combined perfectly for a unique moment.

  Fred Thom

     Moby: 18
     Moby: Play

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