Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, 28/4/2015
published: 22 /
With a mix of songs both old and new spread over two joyful hours, Jamie Rowland finds that Calexico’s phenomenal set at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London still feels way too short
Being fairly lazy and extremely welcoming of any chance to park my bum in a cushion, I felt like I’d really lucked out when I received my seated ticket to see Calexico at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Not only could I spend the entire gig sitting down and relaxed, I had a great view of the stage with easy access to both the toilets and a less-busy bar than the one downstairs.
What I had failed to remember – despite having seen Calexico live on a couple of earlier occasions – is that they are one of the most enjoyable live acts you could ever hope to see, getting the crowd happily dancing and clapping along within seconds of arriving onstage. This left me, sitting in my seat, feeling a bit disappointed in myself for not having gone for the more mobile, boogie-friendly option of standing in the stalls. It's hard, however, to feel too down when Joey Burns, John Convertino et al. are blasting their way through ‘Across the Wire’, and I soon found myself bopping along in my chair.
The band played a range of songs from across their career, taking in most if not all of their albums, with an obvious focus on tracks from their latest record, 'Edge of the Sun'. Every song got a tremendous reaction, but without doubt it was the numbers from 2003’s 'Feast of Wire 'that were greeted with the biggest whoops and cheers. From the afore-mentioned ‘Across the Wire’, to ‘Sunken Waltz’ and the phenomenal ‘Güero Canelo’, with which they closed the first of their two encores in spectacular style. There were also a healthy dose of fantastic covers, from fan-favourite ‘Alone Again Or’, Minutemen’s ‘Corona’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, which featured in the middle of an extended version of ‘Not Even Stevie Nicks’ (again from 'Feast of Wire').
Despite 'Edge of the Sun' having only come out the day before, which meant most of us had heard very few of the songs from it, all the new tracks went down a storm. It’s no surprise – the joy and sheer enjoyment of playing projected by the band is wonderfully infectious. Everyone was having a good time, and the room was filled to the ceiling with positivity. There’s something about mariachi horns that get me smiling more than any other instrument.
The band were on top form, as well as seeming extremely pleased to be here. Convertino is an exceptional drummer; any opportunity to see him play is worth every penny. There’s a subtly to his playing; if you watch him, he’s doing so much and making it look and sound so easy. It was also a pleasure to see Joey Burns fronting the band of course, who – along with Jacob Valenzuela (trumpet, keyboards, vibes and backing vocals) – was whipping the crowd up in excitement at every possible opportunity. The band was rounded out by Martin Wenk (trumpet, guitar, keyboard… it was hard to keep up with everything he was playing), Ryan Alfred (bass, vocals) and Sergio Mendoza (keyboards), with snake-hipped lead guitarist Jairo Zavala doubling-up as the coolest man on stage, in the room and probably the whole world.
As noted above, the band played two encores, filling up all the time they had, right up to the eleven o’clock curfew. “We feel like we’re just getting started,” said Burns as he introduced their last song, ‘Follow the River’, the closing track on Edge of the Sun' The crowd felt exactly the same way. When you can play for over two hours and still leave them wanting more, you know you’re doing something right.