A 17-piece orchestra took its seats in darkness, minutes before a snippet from a tennis match — sampled from a commentator announcing a score of “thirty-thirty” — introduced Deltron 3030. For its second New York show this month, the hip-hop trio packed Highline Ballroom to promote Event II, the long-in-the-works sequel to the group’s apocalyptic, 2000 self-titled album.
Before delving into the new material, frontman Del the Funky Homosapien tested the past with the tried-and-true: heads bobbed in the wall-to-wall audience as Del hit every word of “3030,” “Things You Can Do” and “Positive Contact.” He wore all black; sunglasses hid his face. For much of the performance, the band’s producer, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, waved a baton as he conducted the 3030 Orchestra, comprised of eight strings players, four on horns, four choir singers and a drummer. DJ Kid Koala supplemented the live instruments with cuts and scratches as he does on Event II, which, unlike its predecessor, avoids samples.
Both albums were evenly represented. Deltron divided its hour-long set between new ones, including “The Return” and the bouncy caution of “City Rising From the Ashes,” and familiar favorites like “Virus” and “Memory Loss,” which didn’t stray far from the recordings. Closing the two-song encore was the Del-written, Automator-produced Gorillaz hit, “Clint Eastwood.”
The orchestra was a nice — and vital — touch; without it, the show would have offered little more than an album mixed with crowd noise. Other than briefly thanking the crowd — and urging them to buy Event II — Del left the audience interacting to the Automator, who echoed the request before promoting a forthcoming taping for David Letterman. “We worked 13 years on this,” he insisted with a smile. And that’s what made the performance an experience: the notion that it could be just as long before we hear from Deltron 3030 again.