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Moby Plays Historian At The Vic

By Veronica Murtagh in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 1, 2009 9:20PM

Moby at age 21, via his MySpace page.
Beginning his career in punk and postpunk bands in the 1980's, Moby has spent the past two decades blurring genre boundaries. In his first tour with a live band since 2005, Moby swept through the Vic last night, escorting the audience on a tour through not only his catalog of music, but through the history of music.

Opening act Kelli Scarr treated the audience to an early taste of her nightingale-voiced acoustic indie folk. Scarr lends guest vocals to the title track of Moby's newest release, Wait For Me, and she would prove to be an integral part of the evening's show, joining Moby onstage as his cohort and sometimes live band member.

After seeing Moby perform with a full band, it's hard to imagine his material translated any other way. His band, including a violinist, took the stage and flanked on either side of the spritely Moby were his two muses for the evening, Kelli Scarr and gospel chanteuse, Inyang Bassey. It was clear this would be a mature show, and the audience's ages reflected their desire for a sophisticated experience. Moby delivered nothing short of one impeccable, crowd-rousing number after the next. From the somber Mistake to his feet-moving, 1999 hit Body Rock, Moby proved himself a capable showman.

It's easy to forget while listening to his recorded albums separately how many influences Moby has drawn from over the years. Last night Moby played the dual role of performer and historian, often leaving the mic to join the band and letting the voices of Scarr and Bassey act as his own. Throughout the show Moby referenced every genre imaginable. Postpunk mixed with blues, Americana and rave techno. One of the evening's many high points was Moby's followup to Pale Horses, an impromptu blues cover of the same song. The juxtaposition of his own material was an ambitious and inspirational display of his personal passion for music.

A true charmer, and effortlessly at ease with the crowd, Moby treated us to an unreleased rock gem that brought to mind New Order's most recent Crystal era and then ended his set with a laser-filled dance session centered around the crowd favorite, Raining Again.

Spontaneous and affable, we weren't sure what Moby had planned next as he again took the stage. One encore gave way three. Just when we thought surely there could be no more, Moby warned us that his fourth encore would be long, clocking in at a record 19 minutes at the previous night's Detroit show. Shock and curiosity washed across the faces of the audience as Moby began what would become a 13 minute version of Honey, broken up in the middle by a blues duel between Moby's guitar and Bassey's belting voice and then dissolving into a classic rock, acid trip jam session. Liquid kaleidoscopes of light swirled onstage, providing a surreal backdrop for an unforgettable musical experience. Winded and slightly perturbed by the full drink that had been tossed onstage at him, Moby ended the track, but refused to lose his calm, cool demeanor. For his fifth, and final encore, Moby dedicated his 1994 electronic classic Feeling So Real to anyone who had ever raved and we closed the night awash in lights, wishing our pants were baggier and our vice of choice for the evening was something other than an overpriced gin and tonic.

Offering the audience the full span of his career in a single show, Moby brought together a crowd whose ages and musical tastes spanned decades. A string of unforgettable moments and a performance of raw passion proved Moby one of the most innovative and important talents in electronic music's historical timeline.