Calexico, Forum, London
Wednesday 19 September 2012
When the trumpeter announces he is going to have a go at singing, you might think it is time to head to the bar, yet Jacob Valenzuela’s affecting rendition of his own composition "No Te Vayas" is greeted warmly and repays attention.
This is no slight on frontman Joey Burn’s vocal abilities, just as sign of how Tucson, Arizona’s Calexico have matured as a band. Formed in 1996 as a vehicle for Burns and drummer John Convertino, the duo have explored various permutations of alt.country and Mexicana over seven albums.
Now they have emerged after a four-year break with Algiers, garnering reviews that suggest it is their strongest set of songs of date. Accordingly, it forms the bulk of tonight’s set, though the band are so brisk after such a long hiatus, there are plenty of diversions to come, including Valenzuela’s moment in the spotlight.
That still leaves much for Burns to accomplish, especially in a set geared towards unfamiliar material. In the past, Calexico have occasionally failed to convince on two counts. There is often a curatorial air about their compilations of global tastes, sounds and stories, with Burns’s quavering voice failing to impose itself on tales of outsiders and loners that required more grit.
Tonight, though, he is full of Springsteen-style energy. If his air punching has a touch of Tim Henman about it, we can still enjoy the incongruity of a rangy indie bloke shouting “Let me hear you scream”. He and the band have to contend with a flat sound that makes them the quietest septet to play a venue of this size.
It takes the edge off Burns’s testifying, Jim Morrison-snarl in the middle of ‘Sinner In The Sea’, though allows more delicate moments to glow, especially the ballad ‘Two Silver Trees’ and the thoughtfully mournful ‘Para’ propelled by Convertino’s subtle wristy action.
That and ‘Maybe On Monday’ from the current album represent their most personal, direct writing to date. Elsewhere, the outfit are in playful mood, the two brass players bolting stage front like eager puppies as they bring the mariachi heat to ‘Across The Wire’. Established material has evolved as Calexico have absorbed wider influences.
With its Buena Vista feel, the stately ‘ Roka (Danza de la Muerte)’ could be beamed in from some crumbling Havana ballroom. As north London’s Americana fans clumsily attempt to salsa, Calexico have been remade as pied pipers of the Latino groove.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'