Moby Sharpens Hits, Unveils New Album at the Fonda Theatre: Concert Review

Chris Godley
Moby showcases his strengths as an affecting singer, instrumentalist and producer during a career-spanning show. 

The multi-instrumentalist introduces "Innocents" then gives fans a guided tour of his biggest singles during the first of three shows at the venue.

"I've been many things over the years," Moby muttered softly into the microphone. On Wednesday night alone, he sampled more than a few personas: nostalgic raver, disco king, sensitive troubadour, pop-rock singer and, of course, ambient and techno music all-star.

The thoughtful multi-instrumentalist split his evening at the Los Angeles Fonda Theatre into two sets: one debuting songs from his new album, Innocents (out Sept. 30), and another consisting of 18-plus greatest hits (plus a version of "Poison Tree," which had been remixed by David Lynch). It was one of only a few tour dates scheduled and the first of a three-night stand at the Hollywood venue.

STORY: Moby Talks Hero Worship, L.A. Living, Sobriety

During the first batch of songs, Moby was sometimes apologetic -- especially for the length of his new material, even though the packed crowd was seemingly attentive throughout. After introducing the chilly "The Dogs" (9:23 in the album version), he joked that the only people who'd enjoy the song were audience members who had taken acid.

Musically, Innocents continues the path forged from his previous two releases, 2009's sparse and melancholy Wait For Me and 2011's bleak traveling album Destroyed. The album has been billed in press materials as the artist's first foray working with an outside producer, Mark "Spike" Stent, but there is plenty of familiar sounding songs. 

A standout from the first set -- slotted from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m, before a half hour break leading up to the hits -- was single "The Perfect Life," which the band performed earlier in the week in a Conan appearance.

The track plays like a version of 2005's sunny Devil Wears Prada soundtrack title "Beautiful" reworked into even more of a sing-a-long. While The Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne features on the album version, the singer improvised for the live rendition, breaking out tambourines and asking the crowd to sing the refrain, "Oh, we close our eyes / The perfect life is all we need."

When the greatest hits set began the tremendous vocal contributions from Inyang Bassey (featured on Innocents' "Don't Love Me") took center stage. Starting with the Play hit "Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?" and seguing into the dance fury of "In My Heart" featuring dazzling darts of light, Bassey commanded the spotlight.

Meanwhile, Moby guided audience members on a tour of his most popular tracks, often telling brief anecdotes about each of the hits and reframing some of the songs. While the set leaned heavy on Play classics, pleasant surprises included a disco-tinged "Raining Again" and an affecting acoustic guitar version of "Slipping Away" that was fan requested. Despite the dance-theme of most of the set, only one song, "Disco Lies," was played from 2008's party album Last Night.

Before launching into "Bodyrock" he quipped that his keyboardist was surprised to learn he had written a song she used to play while cheerleading. He dedicated "Go," naturally, to the L.A. rave scene that wholeheartedly welcomed him in the early 1990s. When introducing "Lift Me Up," from 2005's meditative Hotel, he mentioned that those from Belgium or Spain would appreciate the track -- but those from the U.S. probably "haven't heard it." 

Even some of his greatest hits got the self-deprecating treatment. Moby mentioned that "everyone" at his label was depressed about the performance of "Extreme Ways," but then the song got picked up on the soundtrack for 2004's Bourne Supremacy, becoming one of his biggest singles. "We Are All Stars," which the artist said he initially was going to dedicate to NASA, became politically charged after Moby expressed exasperation at the federal government shutdown. 

"Just imagine that we're in the Hollywood Hills and we've all started a cult," quipped the artist during one of the last songs, a reprise of "The Perfect Life." The whole band joined him at the the stage for the track, the crowd once again adding to the communal "close our eyes" refrain. 

Innocents Set List

Everything That Rises
Don't Love Me
A Case for Shame (featuring Al Spx)
The Last Day (featuring Skylar Grey)
A Long Time
The Lonely Night
Almost home
Tell Me
The Dogs
The Perfect Life

Greatest Hits Set List:

Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
In My Heart
Lift Me Up
Slipping Away (Acoustic)
In This World (Acoustic)
We Are All Made of Stars


Raining Again
Disco Lies
Extreme Ways
Natural Blues
Feeling So Real
Perfect Life (Acoustic)

Twitter: @Erik_Hayden