September 25, 2008

Live Review: West Meets East [Calexico]

Victor Gastelum, Calexico's Artist of Choice

In effort to escape the public hysteria over the slow train wreck that is the U.S.'s economy, I took some time yesterday to see in concert one of my favorite bands, Calexico, at NYC's Webster Hall. For the uninitiated, Calexico is one of the more interesting and talented musical acts today, and to witness their live shows is something of an event.

The group, founded by John Convertino and Joey Burns, is what I like to think as a musician's band. Incredibly technical though organic, Calexico breeze through multiple music genres to craft consistently beautiful and well-textured music. Though much has been said about the group's unique blend of mariachi, country and spaghetti western film scores, Calexico have recently over the last five years evolved into something greater. Much of the Calexico's recent work, starting with 2003's Feast of Wire, has channeled the group's now complex and expansive musical palette into the traditional song format, creating music that can balance the substance with the expansive style. The group's latest album, Carried to Dust, could be their best, and I've included the opening track, "Victor Jara's Hands", below for download.

Back to the show. Prior to last night's show, I had seen Calexico twice (2004 and 2006), both times of which I had been put in a complete trance. This time was no different. The group opened with "Roka", a Spanish/English vocal faceoff paced to slow, steady horns and percolated piano work. I quickly snapped a picture as I listened and watched:

Much of the setlist was drawn from Feast of Wire and Carried to Dust, though the group also played concert staple "Alone Again Or", a fantastic cover of a Love song of the same name, and the rambuctious "Crystal Frontier", a song that closes out a majority of Calexico's concerts. I've included both below for your downloading pleasure.

In watching and listening, I realized the tightness of Calexico's performance is unmatched. Every musician was in perfect communication with each other, and the best part is that the group has an absolute blast when doing so. In addition, Calexico has become truly international, as nationalities from around the world were represented on stage. What was once a Tuscon, AZ-based side project of the alt-country group Giant Sand has now evolved into a world act, now including members from Berlin, Munich, Madrid and Nashville.

The group is on tour now, so do yourself a favor and see them live, even if you've never listened to their work. A testimony from one of last night's patrons: "that was one of the happiest moments I ever had in New York." Take it from me, you'll likely feel the same.

Viva Calexico!

Calexico - Victor Jara's Hands [Carried to Dust LP, 2008]

Calexico - Alone Again Or [Convict Pool EP, 2004]

Calexico - Crystal Frontier (Widescreen Version) [Even My Sure Things Fall Through EP, 2001]

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