July 23, 2002
Dekalb Atlanta Center-Atlanta
First, a last minute change of venue caught many ticket buyers unaware. Then a monstrous Georgia thunderstorm rolled through the area slowing traffic to a crawl. Considering those two obstacles, it's a minor miracle that anyone made it to the Dekalb Atlanta Center to catch Azure Ray's opening set. The ex-Athenians brought their whispery, acoustic based songs to a venue full of electronica fans and lived to tell the tale. Withstanding cliched cries for "Free Bird," the quartet led by vocalists Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor started quiet and got even quieter. The mood was somber and most of the early crowd was attentive, if not enraptured. Athens was represented well in the crowd. I saw Lona-mates Clay Leverett and Marcus Thompson playing it cool as they watched from about halfway back. I believe I saw Your American Math's front man as well. When Orenda announced that the band was originally from Athens, there was an audible gasp of surprise from the crowd followed by a roar of approval. Smartly closing their short set with "The Great Escape," (which appears on Moby's latest album) Azure Ray caught the ears of a few more. Afterwards, the band tore down their equipment. Welcome to the big time, eh?
Next up was one of the latest flavors of the month. Brit-soft-electronic-pop men Dirty Vegas played like a rock band smart enough to know when to cash in. After several repetitive, but solid songs, the guitar fronted band showed their roots.
Their mega-hit "Days Go By" (y'know, the song from the Mitsubishi commercial) was prefaced by an acoustic intro that showed the organic beginnings of the song before production got a hold of it and made it the sound of the minute.
The trio closed things out with a simplified, but crowd-pleasing version of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2." Judging by all of the people that gathered at the side of the stage to collect their autographs, I'd say they made a few new fans...at least for the moment.
Moby appeared onstage with his electric guitar to knock out "Extreme Ways." The Moby freaks were...well, freaking out. Compared to last year's Area:One set, this performance was rockier. Instead of the laser augmented space out of "The Sky Is Broken," we were treated to stomping versions of "James Bond Theme," "We Are All Made Of Stars" and a particularly intense (Afro-wig wearing) version of "Body Rock" that segued from the most forgettable new song "Jam For The Ladies." Moby's self-deprecating humor was intact throughout the night. Every time he strapped on his guitar, he couldn't seem to fight the urge to bust out an old classic rock staple. At various times during the night, he launched into "More Than A Feeling," "Dust In The Wind," "Immigrant Song," "Stairway To Heaven," "Roundabout, "Give Peace A Chance" and "Dueling Banjos." As soon as the band would try to join him, he'd bail and apologize for his transgressions.
After an almost venomous diatribe against modern rock radio (at a 99X sponsored show) and how those groups are all "designed in an evil lab", he led his crew into an "ad-libbed" song to demonstrate how easy it is to write that stuff. Starting with the post-Nirvana four-chord sludge, leading into the quiet verse and bashing into the screaming chorus "What Am I Supposed To Do," the man hit his target with dead on accuracy. Later, "South Side" found vocalist Diane Charlemagne admirably filling in for Gwen Stefani. She also brought to life any number of other vocalists that Moby has sampled over the years. The rock star of the show, however, was definitely bassist Greta B. She leaped around Moby like a spiky blonde Amazon. Occasionally the two would do their best Page and Plant (or Simmons and Stanley) poses while unable to disguise their smiles. She seemed to almost nudge Moby in the way his intensity level mirrored hers during the highest energy parts of the show. The only slow downs of the night came during "Natural Blues, the gorgeous "Porcelain" and "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" The rest of the time, the beats were body numbing. By the climactic crescendo of "Feeling So Real," Moby had been playing for over two hours. He had done more than 20 songs, donned an Afro, unconsciously resembled a member of Blue Man Group under the hue of the lights and even did (and held) a head stand during the Chi2 string trio's solo. At one point someone in the crowd yelled, "Moby, you're a whore!" He responded, "No, I'm not, you don't have to pay me." After seeing the love he has for his music and performance, I believe him.