I’ve pretty much missed every Moby show in the last couple of years. And believe me, I’ve tried to go. His three nights at the Echo early last year … I had tickets. I also had the flu. So that didn’t happen. He did a stint at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the L.A. Philharmonic. That one sold out before I even knew it went on sale. So nope. Then, he announced that he’d be at the Wiltern as part of the Adopt the Arts program at the beginning of this month. Surprisingly, tickets were still available. So of course, there was no way I was gonna strike out again.
Before I get into this, let’s get a few things out of the way. First off, this wasn’t a typical Moby concert with the usual full setlist. It was a benefit show, with an abbreviated performance, amounting to about half the normal duration. Second, as a benefit show, the underlying goal was to raise money for Adopt the Arts, a non-profit organization aimed at funding music and arts programs in public schools that have suffered from budget cuts. That’s something I can totally get behind. Third, Moby was being honored with an award for all his artistic endeavors, philanthropy, activism, etc. So yeah, this wasn’t your typical show.
Actress Jane Lynch acted as host and MC. I always remember her from “Glee,” but she’s one of the founders of ATA, along with former Guns ‘n Roses/Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, and activist Abby Berman. The Wiltern’s tiered lower floors were decked out in a series of round tables, all with vegan catering. For those not in the know, Moby’s a vegan. He even owns and operates a vegan restaurant in Silver Lake called Little Pine.
In keeping with some concert traditions, there were a couple of warm up acts … longtime electronic pioneer The Crystal Method, who’s slimmed down to one member, and musician/actress Kate Nash, who some might recognize from the Netflix show “Glow.” There was even an auction before Moby took the stage. I got to watch a woman throw down twelve grand for a Shepard Fairey original. And sure, why not? If you’re rich enough, why not invest in public schools, where children can learn to play music and do art.
I, on the other hand, am not rich. But I can afford a balcony ticket. And that money goes to the same program. So if a little bit of my cash can help some kid play drums or guitar, I’m totally on board with that cause.
I think what was most rewarding was witnessing the tangible results from ATA’s efforts. Moby’s performance featured many of the elementary school children from the program, joining him on stage for a few songs, including an 11 year old girl on drums, who faced off with vet drummer Sorum. They did that on the rock gospel of “The Perfect Life,” which was a lot of fun to watch.
That’s my bit about the extenuating circumstances surrounding this particular evening with Moby. As far his performance, this was about as intimate and personal as you can get at the Wiltern. It was somewhat casual, with none of the typical security barriers and concert “rules.” Moby himself was fairly chatty, prefacing everything he played with some anecdote or backstory. And along with his band, any other musicians who happened to be on hand, joined in the show.
The set was short, like I mentioned, I think six songs in total, half of them being covers. Moby explained that the covers were for the people who were not familiar with his own music. But I don’t think there was anyone like that in attendance.
Just in case you don’t know Moby, he started out in the techno and ambient scenes of electronic music back in the late ’80s. His real name is Richard Melville Hall, and Moby was a nickname given to him by his parents, referencing a distant ancestral relationship to “Moby Dick” author Herman Melville. Yeah, seriously … Since then, Moby’s gone on to explore a variety of arts, expanding his musical palate into various forms of rock and electronica, as well as taking on photography and writing. He’s also known for his activism, particularly animal rights, and his philanthropic support of numerous charities.
If you’re a Moby fan, the first half of his set would definitely put a smile on your face. He opened with a rousing rendition of “Extreme Ways,” a.k.a. the theme from “The Bourne Identity,” which lead into the 1999 “Play” classics “Natural Blues” and “South Side,” the latter featuring Sorum on drums. There was also his collaboration with The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, the aforementioned “The Perfect Life,” featuring a choir of kids, Sorum, and that 11 year old drummer. And then there were the covers, featuring, Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” the latter of which had a surprising relevance to the evening’s proceedings.
I’m not going to get into specifics. But I will say that all of it sounded great, and was worth the price of admission, charity or not. I’ve got five of the six songs featured below in the best possible balcony footage I could muster. I’ve also included Moby’s introductions and anecdotes, if any were made, since they clearly illustrate a relevance to the evening’s events. Otherwise, enjoy this abbreviated but highly exclusive performance from this prolific and longtime veteran and vegan of the music and arts culture.
Moby performs “Extreme Ways” @ the Wiltern on 03.01.19.
Moby performs “Natural Blues” @ the Wiltern on 03.01.19.
Moby performs “South Side” @ the Wiltern on 03.01.19.
Moby performs “The Perfect Life” @ the Wiltern on 03.01.19.
Moby performs Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” @ the Wiltern on 03.01.19.
Adopt the Arts: