SXSW Showcase Reviews
Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., March 16, 2012
Thomas DolbyCedar Street Courtyard, Friday, March 16
Sporting a casual yet dignified brown hat for the occasion, Thomas Dolby started Friday night's set beset with technical problems. Much of opener "Commercial Breakup" was spent ironing out kinks in the mix, a rich irony for an Eighties pop icon turned music technology impresario. All was solid by the time Dolby and his backing guitarist and drummer rolled into "Spice Train" from 2011's A Map of the Floating City. This pulsing squiggle of a groove came festooned with synthesized approximations of trumpets and Bollywood strings that placed the song in a time all its own. "Evil Twin Brother" came girded by a smoky funk undertone that set the scene for Dolby's noirish lyric about doing unspecified bad things after wandering jet-lagged into a New York City diner at 3am. "The Toad Lickers" combined country and techno to humorous effect, particularly when he indulged his inner adolescent by rhyming "species" and "feces." Memorable minor hits like 1989's wit-laden "Airhead" and 1984's mathematical funk nugget "Hyperactive" set the stage for "She Blinded Me With Science," which Dolby preceded by playing outtakes of Dr. Magnus Pyke shouting "Science!"