Calexico - HMV Forum, London 18/09/12
It must always be a daunting prospect for any performer to support a notoriously great live act in a venue of this size. Laura Gibson and her band opened this show with a subtle collection of country flavoured music. She played acoustic guitar and her band consisted of drums, keyboards and bass with occasional trumpet and lap steel. She switched between two microphones, one heavily processed to sound scratchy and ancient, which added an extra dimension to her songs. She drew heavily on her recent record La Grande, some of which sits very well with the music of Calexico.
She seemed initially shy and she battled a bit with the increasingly chatty crowd filing in as she played, but a brave solo rendition of Leadbelly's 'Where Did You Sleep Last Night' and the addition of Calexico's bassist for a few songs made some more people take notice.
With their seven-strong line-up Calexico were an altogether more confident proposition, and they treated this large crowd like old friends from the start, repeatedly saying how much they loved playing in London.
The new album Algiers is their most immediately impressive record for a while, and it was featured heavily, from the opening song 'Epic' to the heady rush through 'Sinner In The Sea' as part of the encore.
Calexico has always had a shifting, changing line-up built around the core of vocalist and guitarist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino. Algiers is perhaps a more straight forward rock album than you might expect from them, and it was recorded in New Orleans, a change which has given their music a new lease of life.
They have a huge and varied back catalogue to plunder of course, and they carefully balance the old and new over the course of 90 minutes. The second song of the set, the familiar 'Across the Wire', showed that they haven't jettisoned the trademarks of their sound either. It's a traditional slice of Americana in waltz time combined with mariachi vibes and ecstatic Tijuana brass. It seemed that every time the trumpets kicked in the crowd got even more into it.
Highlights abound, but the gently understated 'Hush' from the new album, the crowd pleaser 'Victor Jara's Hands' and the lush instrumental 'Minas De Cobre' from 1998's The Black Light deserve special mentions. The range of their music is quite amazing. On 'No Te Vayas' trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela took lead vocals and they sounded perfectly Latin American, whilst 'Deep Down' was nothing short of contemporary indie-rock.
The cover of 'Alone Again Or' was a faithful interpretation of Forever Changes era Love, perhaps the only band with whom they can be closely compared. They didn't let the pace or the momentum drop after this, and 'Guero Canelo' closed the main set with all of the band getting a chance to shine.
A three song encore ended with the classic 'Crystal Frontier', their anthem, their ear-worm if you like, and the crowd took this with them as they exited, smiling into the North London night. Joey Burns said a couple of times that Calexico loved playing here. Well, this capacity crowd loved having them.
Purchase and listen
Label: City Slang Link: www.myspace.com/casadecalexico Maybe it's the fact that in a month or so i'll be heading into that crazy place we call Mexico but this album really speaks to me and it really shouldn't. It's not that I don't like the band, the split they did with Iron & Wine was pretty good but on the whole I find them a bit hit & miss. Plus the fact this album is very much a worlds album it's not surprsing I wasn't expecting the best from them. As always I was very, very wrong!... [read more]
Few bands are likely to tote a full mariachi band around with them on tour. Yet few bands are so closely associated with a geographical area more than Arizona's Calexico. Named after a town on the California-Mexico border, they're indelibly steeped in the musical tapestry of the south-western US and Latin America, core duo of singer/guitarist Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino combining the fried, widescreen feel of the region's musical heritage... [read more]