It seemed fitting that in the town that once staged something called Disco Demolition Night, Moby would survey an audience of 20,000 spread out at the Tweeter Center on Wednesday and declare the balmy evening a perfect opportunity "to play some beautiful house songs and rave anthems."
Call it the revenge of the club kids, but the dance grooves percolated for nine hours at the inaugural Area: One Festival, perhaps the most pronounced affirmation yet of how house music and rave culturethe proud offspring of '70s discohave infiltrated the rock mainstream.
The festival was the brainchild of Moby and his management team, and there are few artists better equipped to bring the worlds of rock and dance together. In his galvanizing headlining set, Moby leapfrogged from decade-old club hits such as "Go" to power-chord guitar rave-ups such as his "James Bond Theme." The shaven-headed imp dashed frenetically among keyboards, an electronic drum kit and a percussion rig, addressingno, attackingeach of the instruments with the enthusiasm of a tot tearing through presents on Christmas morning. When he strapped on his electric guitar, he teased the audience with an encyclopedic knowledge of classic-rock riffs. In so doing, the singer declared that on this night, at least, there would be no boundaries that could contain his music, and the philosophy applied to many of the acts on the 10-artist bill, particularly hip-hoppers OutKast and the Roots, Portuguese-Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtado and French electro-rock band Rinocerose.
Moby, a child of the hardcore punk scene as a teenager, an electronic-music innovator at the dawn of the '90s, and an acclaimed cult artist for most of the last decade known more for his eclecticism than his hits, finally has scored a million-selling record in "Play," and he gave its songs of heartache and longing the soul-deep texture they have always deserved in live performance. His band was augmented by a string section and percussionist, plus protean gospel vocalist Diane Charlemagne. In addition, Furtado filled Gwen Stefani's role in dueting with Moby on a rousing "South Side."
For all his child-like energy as a performer, Moby found the stillness inside "Porcelain" and "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?," and raised goosebumps by taking the desolate soundscape of "The Sky is Broken" to a lushly orchestrated climax.
Just as impressive was Philadelphia's the Roots, which concluded its set with an audacious display of rhythmic linguistics by human beat-box Scratch; and OutKast, an Atlanta duo that expanded to a 10-piece, P-Funk-style orgy of sound in concert. Their spectacular "B.O.B." blended gospel-choir harmonies, hot-wired electric guitars and furious, double-time drum 'n' bass rhythms into a burning-down-the-house epic such as the hip-hop world has not seen since Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise." With rappers Dre and Big Boi alternating molasses drawls with a rapid-fire phrases, OutKast both honored hip-hop's past and sent it barreling into a multi-culti future.
Furtado is also a child of hip-hop, as well as a disciple of Portuguese folk music and a student of the eternal pop hook. The influences melt together on joyous workouts such as "Hey Man," and she augmented the songs from her debut album, "Whoa, Nelly!" with a whip-smart cover of Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On." Like Elliott, and Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill before her, Furtado's phrasing as a singer is informed by rap, with its rhythmic cadences and percussive catch-phrases: Bada-ba-ba-ching-ching!
In a tent separate from the main stage, Moby stocked a Who's Who of deejay talent: the abstract soundscapes of Detroit techno pioneer Kevin Saunderson, the aggressive roar of Carl Cox's exploding bass lines, the brilliant psychedelic tomfoolery of Alex Paterson, a.k.a. the Orb, and the crowd-pleasing ebb-and-flow dynamics of Paul Oakenfold.
It is Oakenfold who more than any other deejay is leading cautious suburbanites and curious rock fans into the rave new world, and while his music lacks the daft genius of the Orb's, its crescendos mimic the rituals of arena rock, bridging two planets of sound once thought incompatible.
Accomplishing the same task with even greater aplomb was Rinocerosewhich with as many as three guitars approximated T. Rex glitter-stomp and My Bloody Valentine's DC-10 roar over rippling conga grooves and pounding kick drums. Here was a band that made the distinctions between rock and dance irrelevantmuch like Area: One itself.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times