In many ways, Moby is the perfect modern recording artist, although that's not a judgement that translates so readily when applied to his art. No, the New York DJ and producer signalled the way ahead for music almost a decade ago, and it was nothing to do with his own sound. In 1999, Moby (Richard Melville Hall) released the album Play, and the world exploded around him.
Now that download culture has seen the monetary resale value of music plummet the way most of the songs on Play were licensed to advertisers – selling nine million copies of the album worldwide in the process – has become the Holy Grail for every management team bar the likes of Coldplay's, who have found it for themselves. Yet Moby also sums up the potential pitfall for every artist who considers pocketing licensing dollars. His fleeting, profitable ubiquity soon tired the world (or the critical establishment, at least) of his music, not to mention his views on politics, veganism and being a reformed hellraiser.
All of which makes Moby's shrugging self-deprecation at this low-key launch for his new album Last Night all the more refreshing. This hour-long acoustic set at Mono, a fashionable vegan café (of course), is where we get closer to the real Moby than the geekish stereotype usually allows.
The early part of the set did play amusingly to type, though. As the guitar-wielding star joined in his unheralded co-singer Joy's exasperated requests for a cup of peppermint tea during and after the opening song "Natural Blues", an unnamed interloper chose to drown him out by accidentally playing Last Night itself over the PA system.
"I know, I know," he said, one snapped comment and bite of the lip later, "I'm being a dick." Hissy fit averted. On with entertaining a small corner of the city in which Moby says he most likes to play.
Slowly, the real artist emerged – one with a dry playfulness who peppers the set with understandably proud anecdotes about Lou Reed only deigning to duet with Moby on Walk On The Wild Side at Austin's South-by-Southwest festival, and playing to 1.5 billion people worldwide at the Salt Lake Winter Olympic closing ceremony, but only being able to see Dick Cheney sitting in front of him.
In this setting, and with Joy's deeply impressive soul vocals to augment them, tracks like "We Are All Made of Stars", "Extreme Ways" and the new "Disco Lies" accentuate Moby's songwriting ability. More telling yet are off-hand covers of Radiohead's "Creep" in a bossa nova style and "Sweet Home Alabama" in a sombre minor key. Each is fun and endearing and capably advertises the thing Moby most needs to sell right now – himself.Reuse content