Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
alexico may never reach stardom. Now 13 albums in (the group released "El Mirador" in April), these guys were not designed, nor perhaps looking, for radio hits.
What they have shown during their musical lifetime is that they are a most worthy band at the very least in the live setting with their potpourri of Americana/Tex-Mex/film noir/rock. Calexico may be the brainchild of lead singer Joey Burns and drummer John Convertino, but that only scratches at what make them so good.
The long and lanky Convertino may sit quietly behind the drum set sitting a sturdy, steady beat. Burns takes care of most of the singing – mainly in English, but sometimes in Spanish.
But Calexico, as usual, was much more than Burns and Convertino. There's the additional one-two punch of Jacob Valenzuela and Martin Wenk, mainly on trumpet. Valenzuela assumed lead vocals as well.
Guitarist Brian Lopez showed off his skills throughout the 85-minute show and took lead vocals on what might be considered a surprising song to cover, Echo & The Bunnymen's "Killing Moon." But the intent, fortunately was not replication of the original. Calexico put its own mark on the song particularly with the addition of the punchy horns.
When it comes to a concert, consistent underscores Calexico. There may not be a lot of highs and lows – maybe sometimes within a song that occurs – but the overall approach is that each song works.
Calexico ended the night with perhaps its best-known song, its cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" with a few codas to boot. Great to hear the song again in the hands of Calexico, but if they hadn't, that would have been okay too. Calexico was well beyond being a one tricky pony.
Opening act Montreal artist Ada Lea's shiny, long outfit may have been on the fancy side, but this was an unadorned presentation. The material was sufficiently satisfying with good guitar work, Lea, aka Alexandra Levy, can sing, but for the most part, the performance aspect was wooden. Everyone played as if frozen in place.
Levy fared better when she joined Calexico for their encore cover of her "writer in ny." Levy came off far more unfettered during those few minutes.