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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Moby Brings a Human Touch to Techno Set in Hollywood

June 21, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN

Even technoids want to rock.

At least Moby does. Mid-set Monday at the Hollywood American Legion Hall--in a show largely devoted to electronically programmed music--the shaven-headed descendant of Herman Melville brought out a bassist to join him and his two percussionists, strapped on an electric guitar and revved up a primo garage-rock run at "Purple Haze." Later he reprised the format for a sloppy but spirited encore of "Sweet Home Alabama"--of all things.

Well, the techno purists may have been puzzled, but purists be damned. By embracing rock roots, Moby is making manifest the one-world idealism often espoused by techno musicians, adding rockers to the already impressive melting pot of ravers--a bunch that already spans ethnicities, age groups and sexual orientations.

With such gestures, he also brought to the stage a distinctly human touch--something often missing from techno performances. When he wasn't playing guitar, he was leaping around the stage, the heavy, frantic electronic beats and rapidly flashing lights seemingly emanating from his body.

But what really sets Moby apart from his peers is the specifically Christian spirituality of his message--a contrast to the vaguer New Agisms generally associated with techno mystics. Without preachiness or heavy symbolism (well, he did strike a crucifixion pose at concert's end) his sharp musings on the nature of God added a thoughtful edge to the visceral music--especially on "Feeling So Real," a liberating mantra echoing great '70s disco anthems, and the powerfully prayerful "All I Need Is to Be Loved."

Look for Moby to continue his singular crusade when he headlines the second stage on this summer's Lollapalooza tour.

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