As innovative as Thomas Dolby was in the 1980s, his visionary edge to music and presentation continues to impress as the synth-whiz brings his latest imaginative concoction, a time capsule, on his current U.S. tour.
On March 29, 2012, Dolby brought his keyboards, band and his clever contraption to New York City’s Canal Room.
One might ask: “How might a man who became arguably the face of synth-new wave, developed an efficient music downloading format, blindsided fans with a superb eclectic new album and accompanied that with an interactive internet game top all of that?” Dolby’s longtime fans found out that night as the capsule rolled in, attached to the his tour bus after a stellar night of classics, stories and new music from the man who brought them tales of submarines, pirate twins and hyperactivity.
In a recent interview on Revenge of the 80s Radio, Dolby discusses his newest album, A Map of the Floating City, in-depth. The tracks span a variety of musical genres, and he seemed quite fascinated with classic country and Americana, which is evidenced by his pristine capture of those musical styles while normally living in a diametrically opposite culture in England. In addition, Dolby treats his new-waver fans to a hardcore bluegrass duo as the opening act, Aaron Jonah Lewis and Ben Belcher, throughout the tour.
When Dolby took the stage, fans did not see the dramatic guy they remembered who resembled a mad scientist. Rather, the dynamic synth man took a low-keyed approach on stage, donning a black shirt and fedora and positioning himself on the far left of the stage, almost as if his presence was an afterthought in comparison to his new music. While unconventional, this strategy proved essential in accentuating the musical quality of both the classics and new creations. Dolby cleverly weaved new Map tracks with well-known fan favorites like “Europa and the Pirate Twins,” “She Blinded Me With Science” and “One of Our Submarines.” The 80s-era songs were performed with a slightly softer timbre then originally intended, which seemed to make the shifts between funk, country, new wave, bluegrass, rock and the mysterious “Evil Twin Brother” fit together seamlessly. Dolby described the backstories to many of the songs, including inspiration from what he described was a “nocturnal visitation from Billie Holliday” for the track “Love is a Loaded Pistol.”
After firing up the audience with “Hyperactive” and “She Blinded Me With Science,” Dolby moved the crowd with his funky new dance track, “Spice Train,” then invited a quite captivating belly dancer to take center stage for the finale, the classic “Silk Pyjamas.”
Thomas Dolby has always used his musical machinations to tap into the imaginations of listeners to his music. At The Canal Room, Dolby took his audience on an expedition into his mind and their own imaginations without placing himself physically at the center of the stage.
Fans were able to see the time capsule shortly after the end of the concert. In addition to show venues, Dolby plans to bring it to other sites for promotional appearances, including the Lagond School of Music on Saturday, March 31, 2012. Guests to most events will be able to enter the mechanical gizmo and record a message to future generations.