Tucson, Arizona collective Calexico are no strangers to these shores (this is in fact the third time I'm witnessing them in their live splendour) and a devoted core of attendees stands before them tonight to bask in an uplifting and jaw dropping display of mariachi infused, desert noir from a bunch of musicians at the very top of their game.
Founding members and core duo of Joey Burns on guitar and vocals and John Convertino on drums embellish their unique vision in the live realm with a fabulously talented, five piece multi cultural backing band, bringing their cinematic, wide screen musical visions to life in technicolour grandeur.
As one would expect a large number of tracks from most recent record Edge Of The Sun receive an airing tonight, including the Latin infused Cumbria De Donde, the smooth and uplifting vibes of Falling From The Sky, the moody, evocative Follow The River and the cross genre delight Moon Never Rises, which channels gentle ska and desert-country moods in equal measure...desert ska anyone!?
About half way through the set I officially lose my marbles as the opening strains of my favourite Calexico song, Minas De Cobre, resonate forth, an Ennio Morricone infused imaginary soundtrack to gunslingers at dusk which twists, turns and rises to slavishly cinematic proportions.
With Burns and Convertino providing the bedrock, the rest of the band take it in turns to infuse tonight's set with virtuoso interludes. Bullets and Rocks is a tough as teak Tex-Mex workout which showcases the impressive six string chops of the bands touring guitarist, a cool cat from Madrid who also plays a mean lap steel and delivers impassioned vocals, as well as acting as unofficial crowd revver..is there nothing that this man can't do?
The twin trumpet mariachi team to the left of stage bring the fiesta vibes to the fore with regular abandon, while to the right of stage long time keyboardist and accordion player Javier Mendozo and stand up bassist Ryan Alfred are mesmerizing in their own right, either locking down the groove or sprinkling the set with magical moments of musical virtuosity.
While it seems that the set cannot scale any greater heights, a celebratory and inspired cover of Alone Again Or, originally performed by highly esteemed LA 60's cult band Love, causes fits of whooping and manic grins from almost everyone in the room. A truly transcendental moment..
Uptempo fan-fave Crystal Frontier rounds out the main set to impressive effect, before Burns returns to deliver a stark solo number of fragile beauty, the crowd silent and transfixed. Then the rest of Calexico's rag-tag bunch of desert banditos return to the stage for a final fling, serenading us into the humid evening air with the gaunty Guero Canelo, a perfect finale to a truly awe inspiring set of music!
Reviewer - Anthony Gebhardt