Fit for Fiesta

Calexico. At SOhO, Thursday, December 7.

Reviewed by Derek Svennungsen

A blending of diverse sounds and genres isn’t always fruitful, and plenty of bands have tried and failed to pull it off. Yet, for Calexico, who played at the sold-out SOhO last Thursday night, disparate elements come together so well that one is forced to wonder how they could have existed without one another. The fortunate souls able to get in to the show were treated to Calexico’s mélange of foot-stompin’ roots rock backed gorgeously by slide guitar, mariachi horns, and, of all things, a xylophone.

The evening opened with a solid and spirited set of tunes from The Broken West — certainly a band that could headline a West Coast tour on its own merit, since it delivered the cool, laid-back sounds the rest of the world associates with our fair state. But the energy certainly intensified with the arrival of Calexico, and longtime fans and newcomers alike were wowed by their verve and virtuosity.

As the band’s members avow, they made a clear attempt to approach their recorded material in new ways during the live performance, while also adding some intriguing twists. Delicious covers from D. Boon’s Minutemen and David Gahan’s Depeche Mode made you think these guys could merge any sound into their own; they are phenomenal players. Perhaps loath to overdo their instrumentals, the guys seemed to reign in their jams just as they were shaking off their bridles. They often opted too quickly to tighten up and prepare for the next song, and in so doing, certain tunes ended somewhat abruptly. These moments, however, were quickly forgiven and forgotten. After all, for the Calexico fan, cutting a song short means moving on to the next great vista.

Alternately stirring the crowd into a furor with gypsy rhythms and mellowing them out with minor chords, the boys from Tucson made us wonder how in the world Calexico has yet to play the Arlington during Fiesta. Hope that happens soon.

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