Cornershop / Thievery Corp. / Irving Plaza / November 19, 1997
Offering a wonderful evening of multinational, multiethnic musical escapism at the spacious Irving Plaza were Britains’ Cornershop and Washington DC’s Thievery Corp. Startlingly original and uncompromising, Cornershop’s cut-and-paste material kept up a positive vibe that completely captivated fans.
Playing only tracks from the superb recent release, When I was Born For The Seventh Time, Cornershop delivered each little melodic caper in a slightly simmered down,less mystical way, sacrificing the swirly veneer and flowery effervescence of the stuio versions for refined, slightly more folk-rooted interpretations. Though singer-guitarist Tjinder Singh has a shy, unassuming persona, his brilliant blend of Punjabi folk, bhangra, and indie rock styles showed off his distinct musical awareness.
The comfy “Sleep On The Left Side” was delivered less obtusely then the recorded version. The soothingly and spiritually awakened, “Brimful Of Asha,” seeped into the night air like jasmine and the sitar-laced carnival, “Butter The Soul,” sputtered and splintered through its skewed hip-hop groove with ease. The Indian raga, “We’re In Yr Corner,” respectfully approximated the mood and feel of George Harrison’s Within You Without You.”
A bright pinwheel backdrop enhanced the extended Punjabi jam that closed this joyous set, leaving their adoring minions begging for more. Cornershop’s songs take on many shapes and colors, remaining truly original while staying totally en vogue with underground pundits.
Warming upthe Irving Plaza crowd (loaded with an unusual amount of publicity hounds), hip-hop/ dub reggae outfit, Thievery Corp. delivered what seemed like a half-hour narcotic jam. Connecting songs within the confines of an anthemic “Thievery Corp. Theme,” two dreadlocked rastafarian rappers and a bongo-sitar player surrounded tape manipulating programmers Eric Holton and Rob Garza (both dressed in conservative suits and sitting on kitchen chairs mid-stage), captivated the swelling audience with sociopolitical messages and freedom songs, interweaving sampled flutes and brass to thicken the foundation of their cultural surrealism.
Projected film clips and still photography enhanced Thievery Corp’s condensed set. They enthralled open-minded listeners, but may’ve left commercial-minded patrons disillusioned in a futile search for an easy concrete riff or playful melody to hold on to somewhere inside the distended grooves.