Moby Interview/Area 2 Preview and Area 2 Review

by Vittorio Carli Moby


(originally published in The Star newspapers in 2002)


Area 2, one of this year's most anticipated and diverse rock events, is
coming to the Tweeter Theater in Tinley Park on Thursday, August 8 at 3 p.m.

This year's line up features the classic rock of David Bowie, the modern
electronic music of Moby, the gritty raps of Busta Rhymes, the hook filled
hard rock of Ash, and the multimedia performance art of the Blue Man Group

The techno artist, Moby initiated the whole event. He envisioned the event
as a way for worthwhile acts that are left out of the play list/ format
dominated radio stations to get national exposure.

Last year's Area event (titled Area 1) was extremely exciting and offered
lots of musical variety. The line-up included the high tech rock of Moby,
the funky rap of OutKast, the catchy teen pop of Nelly Furtado, the grunge
of Incubus, and the rhythm driven hip-hop of the Roots.

This year's line-up is still very varied. But it is light on female
performers, and it could have used some world music, trip-hop, Latin music,
and/or neosoul. Where is Macy Gray, Femi Kuti, Tricky, Jill Scott, and Los
Lobos when you need them?

During our phone interview, Moby talked about how the performers were
selected. He said" We tried to be eclectic and pick the best acts in their
respective genres, for instance Busta Rhymes is the best hip-hop performer I
have ever seen and so forth."

I asked him about how Area 2 differs from other big concert tours. He
replied, " Well, we're not really in direct competition, but I like to think
that we are more forward thinking and futuristic. The HORDE Tour and Ozzfest
are definitely more one dimensional in terms of the talent selection." Ozzy
Osbourn of ?The Osbournes? cable show put the heavy metal oriented Ozzfest
together.

Moby has always has his finger on the pulse of current musical trends. He
told me that he thinks that in the future, music will be characterized by
"increasing hybridization and increasing cross pollination between genres."

When I asked him which new and up and coming bands he particularly admires,
he said he likes to listen to Mercury Rev and Clinic. He also appreciates
Ash who is gigantic in the UK but practically unknown in the US.

Moby is probably the hottest techno act in the country and most of his
recordings have received high critical acclaim.

His biggest success came with 1999's "Play." It sold over 12 million coped
worldwide and it won best recording of the year in "Village Voice's"
prestigious rock critic's poll.

Moby's real name is Richard Melvin Hall. He was nicknamed Moby because he is
the great-great-great nephew of Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick.

His musical background is varied, and his albums have been influenced by
almost every imaginable sound including techno, jazz, classical, hard-core
punk, dance, and gospel.

Moby told me "the only music I hate is that light contemporary jazz, but I
love the classic stuff like Miles Davis and John Coltrane." His eclectic
taste in music relects his varied musical experiences.

Moby was born in Connecticut. He came from a very musical family and he took
up classical guitar lessons at the age of 19, and he loved classical music
and traditional rock. Then he heard punk rock, and it was like a revelation
to him.

He told me "The late '70s were a great time in music. My guitar teacher
hated punk, but it was great influence on me." In the early 80's, he filled
in for the imprisoned lead singer of the punk band. Flipper. Later, he ended
up in the Connecticut based hard-core punk band called the Vatican
Commandos.

Moby went through another musical paradigm shift after he moved to New York.
He became part of the blossoming acid house, rave and electronic dance
scenes.

Most DJs at the time preferred to remain anonymous and stay in the
background, but Moby was known for his punk-like theatricality. As he played
songs he would dive into the crowd, climb on the speakers, or on some
occasions smash his equipment. On last year's Area 1 tour, he was not at all
outrageous.

His first major release was "Everything is Wrong' was mostly dance music,
but a few numbers "All I Need is To be Loved " or " What Love" had a hard
rock sound. These songs were hinted at his next direction.
Some of the songs on Moby's second CD "Animal Rights, "sound like straight
hard-core punk or hard edged industrial bands like Ministry

The harder sounds of "Animal Rights" inspired its share of critical attacks.
Some of the dance purists attacked Moby as a traitor to techno, but he was
actually trying to aim for a merger of the two musical styles. Moby is known
for combining different sounds (In the later "Play" he even meshed dance
music with gospel and blues.)
It's appropriate that Moby is touring with David Bowie. A number of songs
off his new album "18" seem influenced by Bowie and his frequent
collaborator, Brian Eno. One of the singles, "We Are All of Made of Stars"
would have been right at home on Bowie's "Low" or' Heroes" recordings.

Recently, Bowie has been struggling for a direction and for hits and Moby
seems to be returning the favor.

Moby has been in the news lately for his feud with the controversial rapper,
Eminem. Eminem did a duet with the bi-sexual Elton John at the 2001
Grammies. At this time, Moby criticized Eminem for his homophobic lyrics.

Then on Eminem's last recording, "The Eminem Show," he rapped that at 35,
Moby was out of touch, and that no one listens to techno. When I asked Moby
about it, he said, " It didn't offend me. I find the whole thing amusing and
in a way flattering."

Moby is also known for his collaborations with other artists, he recently
dueted with Sinead O'Connor, Angie Stone, No Doubt's Gwen Stephani and MC
Lyte. He has done remixes of songs by Brian Eno, Michael Jackson, and the
B-52a amongst others

Moby has made his mark on the music world. There have been many other
popular and influential techno bands such as The Orb, The Prodigy, Aphex
Twin, and the Chemical Brothers.

But Moby has probably done more than anyone to popularize the genre, and
give it mainstream respectability without selling out. He can justifiably be
called the king of techno.

Moby is a major figure in pop music, and Area 2 show could well turn out to
be one of the year's most important musical events.

Side bar
Here's some info on some of the other acts.

David Bowie-One of the most innovative rock performers to gain prominence in
the '70s. His work has aged better than almost all of his contemporaries
(such as Rod Stewart and Elton John) because it sounds more modern. His
frequent appearance and musical style changes paved the way for Madonna,
Marilyn Manson, Beck, Bjork, and countless others. His high tech sounds and
science fiction lyrics were a big influence on tour mate, Moby. Most of his
strongest work came out in the 70's. His work during the last ten years has
been more derivative and less popular, but his new CD "Heathen" has its
share of defenders.

Busta Rhymes- Busta graduated from the hip-hop group, the Leaders of the New
School to stake his claim as a solo performer and actor. Some of his career
highlights includes the CD, "Extinction Level Event" which was filled with
paranoid, apocalyptic lyrics, and his duets with Janet Jackson and Ozzy
Osbourne.

Ash-This four-piece band from Northern Ireland is phenomenally successful in
Europe, but has gotten less attention in the US. They are big "Star Wars"
fans and they named their second CD, "1977" after the release date if their
favorite film. Their punk /pop sound recalls the Ramones, Green Day, the
Replacements, and the Undertones. Their new enhanced CD, "Free All Angels"
features a fine bonus video that can be downloaded.

The Blue Man Group-There are actually several blue man groups. All of them
wear blue paint all over their heads hence the name. They put on some of the
most inventive performance art shows around. The Chicago Blue Man show at
the Briar Theater featured expert juggling, music performed with instruments
they created, comedy, and arty, futuristic sculptures. The group performed
with Moby and Jill Scott on last year's Grammy awards show award.


Area 2 review by Vittorio Carli


The Area 2 concert was lively and entertaining, but it was not quite as
riveting as last year?s Area 1 concert. The Area name was chosen because it
suggests something alien and unusual. It is also a tribute to a famous
long-gone dance club called Area.

The show took place at the Tweeter Center on August 8 at the Tweeter Center
in Tinley Park. Some of the employees told me that this would be the year?s
best Tweeter show, but judging by the empty seats it was definitely not the
most poplar one.

The show on the main stage featured David Bowie, Busta Rymes. Blue Man
Group, Ash, and the headliner, Moby. On half of the other dates, Bowie was
the headliner and closing act.

The dance stage featured a number of star DJs who spun discs such as the
Avalanches, John Digwood and Carl Cox. They drew enthusiastic small crowds
and couples who danced.

The acts this year were all good to excellent, but there was less variety in
this year?s show.
Last year?s show had two hip-hop acts and a female pop vocalist. This year
offered mostly danceable futuristic rock with one rap performance.

The Irish band, Ash opened the show with some lively and melodic punk rock.
Their music reminded me of the Buzzcocks, but Ash are a little more cheerful
and less angst driven.

Highlights of their set included ?Submission,? ?Burn Baby Burn,? and the
gorgeous love song ?Caroline.? The group is one of the biggest in England
but most of the people there seemed to have no idea that they were.

Busta Rymes gave an energetic performance that had many in the crowds
dancing. He relied a bit too much on his big butt remarks and his I love
Chicago clichés. His performance was decent, but he never rose to the level
of last year?s area hip-hop acts: the Roots and OutKast. Their music was
much more adventurous, complex and mesmerizing.

Blue Man Group played percussion on their homemade instruments with backing
musicians. The group was ingenious and creative, but they seemed a little
out of their territory in a big concert arena setting. They seemed more at
home at their show at the Briar Street Theater.

Bowie was excellent. He did not merely rely on doing his hits the same way
they were performed on his CDs. He played four good new songs off his new
?Heathen? CD, and he radically transformed many of his old hits.

He also played some wonderful obscure ambient music numbers from ?Low.? The
crowd responded most enthusiastically when he did his Ziggy Stardust era
material, but my favorite number was his alienated, big band version of
?Heroes.?

Moby also floored the audience with his multi-cultural techno band. He ran
around the stage, sang, played congas, and lead guitar. Some of his numbers
sounded similar to Bowie?s but he also did some acid house inflected songs.

He made great use of the beautiful vocals by a British gospel singer and a
fantastic female bass player from Africa who looked like a cross between
Wendy O? Willliams and David Bowie. Many of the best and most popular
numbers came from his 1999 recording ?Play,? but the selections from his new
CD, ?18? also went over well.

Despite my complaints, the show was worthwhile and energizing. Either Moby
or Bowie would have been worth the price of admission alone.

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