Having never seen Moby perform live and not really knowing what to expect I attended his show at Metropolis last night with a little trepidation. Not thinking myself too knowledgeable about his music I really went into the show feeling a little underqualified. Once I got settled in at the back of the room (with a clear view of the stage, a little ledge to lean on plus put my drink on and a nice view of the crowd packed right in front of the stage), Moby took the stage (right around 9 pm), got into his setlist, I began to realized that he is one of those artist in which if you go to a show you discover quickly that you know more or their music than you thought you did. It makes sense as with the eight singles that were released off the album Play his commercial, sample happy electronic music weaved its way into the fabric of your life. His songs were all over the place for a while what with commercials and films using them. Atmospheric, frenetic and accessible like a worm making its way into an apple the songs get deep into your brain. And stay there.
In the beginning I felt like I had mistakenly found my way into the albino version of Blue Man Group as three of the six musicians on stage were white and bald. I must not have been the only cheeky person to have noticed this because Moby himself stated that it was just a coincidence that there were three bald, white guys on stage. It was not on purpose or in the efforts of making a statement.
When recording his music Moby is kind of like a one man band in that he does most of it himself and while he not a slacker on stage (he played several instruments including guitar, drums, bongos, and keyboards) he does allow the other musicians (drummer, bassist, keyboardist, violinist, and female vocalist) plenty of space to do their own thing.
For a little vegan guy he sure prowls around the stage. Moving around almost nervously from spot to spot he is a bundle of energy and when not playing an instrument coming up to the edge of the stage (which made me nervous every time he did it as he does not wear his glasses on stage) with his arms thrust up in the air imploring the crowd to join in his musical frenzy.
Though he does not have much of a singing voice his vocal stylings are suited perfectly for his music. And he is wise enough to allow his female vocalist to do much of the heavy lifting. Most of the material in his set was from the 90s and it had the effect of transporting you back to that time in dance clubs. At certain points it felt very nostalgic for that time in music history. He even dedicated a song (“Honey”) in his encore set to being in a warehouse or a field as the sun is coming up and dancing along to the music with thousands of other likeminded strangers.
Despite the fact that he is not especially chatty on stage he does know how to win over a crowd. Speaking in some broken French and apologizing that he did not speak French very well, Moby acknowledged that he was American, that it was an inferior country to Canada and that it was a privilege for him to be in Montreal. He also told the crowd that in 1985, his first trip out of the U.S. was to Montreal as he was dating a French girl who went to McGill. Applause ensued. He also, though, it took two attempts, brought a guy and girl on stage to allow the guy to propose to his girlfriend. Of course the answer was “yes” and that led to more applause. Not something we all haven’t seen before, but a nice touch. His showmanship went on even further when he and his female vocalist asked permission to sing his favourite Canadian song and then did a lovely version of Neil Young’s “Helpless” (highlight of the night for me).
On stage his boundless enthusiasm was contagious as the crowd was at different points dancing like it was 1990 and we were at a rave. The lights were incredible addling quite a dimension to the music. Musically there was a wide variety to be had. Besides electronic and Canadian classics, Moby did disco, pop, blues, gospel, and some mellow stuff. A virtual smorgasbord of musical styles and influences. One observation I made was that he loves to play disco guitar and several songs featured Moby’s love for his wah wah pedal. White boy’s got some love for the funk!
The conclusion I came to at the end of it all (1 hour 45 minutes later) was that after 20 odd years in the music business and DJing/producing/touring, Moby still has some mad love for music. He is proud of what he has created and accomplished, that is obvious, but his ego does not take away from the music and how he presents it as his live shows is a heck of a lot of fun.
The duo from Detroit, Michigan (on their first trip to Canada) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. opened the show. Their 45 minute set was entertaining and eye-catching due to their matching bow ties and glow-in-the-dark multi-coloured checkered jackets. Their harmony vocals and brand of pop rock that almost veers towards garage rock was a lot of fun and quite catchy.
- 1) God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
- 2) Shot in the Back of the Head
- 3) Extreme Ways
- 4) Natural Blues
- 5) We Are All Made of Stars
- 6) Lift Me Up
- 7) Flower
- 8) Bodyrock
- 9) Porcelain
10) In this World
11) Helpless (Neil Young cover)
12) The Right Thing
13) South Side
14) Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
15) Raining Again
16) Disco Lies
17) Feeling so Real