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Calexico makes gig intact

The Sinclair, Cambridge, Mass., June 4, 2015

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Calexico encountered a lot of trouble making their Boston gig. Apparently, earlier in the day - at about 4 a.m. to be precise - the tour bus suffered a series of mechanical issues, leading the band to wonder whether they'd ever make their Boston gig.

The anxiety of driving down some Quebec highway without proper equipment didn't seem to matter to the roots/rock/Tex-Mex styled band once the group hit the stage.

Twenty years into its existence, Calexico has aged well (as has its audience). The show tended to rock more along with a very strong Tex-Mex vibe and perhaps a bit less on the rootsy side from past concerts.

Lead singer Joey Burns casts an easy-going figure, bantering with the crowd more as the 105-minute show developed. He's a more than adequate vocalist and a good acoustic (he also played electric) guitarist.

Unfortunately, his vocals were buried a bit for a stretch starting with the first song "Falling from the Sky," also the lead-off track on the new "Edge of the Sun," although eventually that changed. The sonics were such that the live setting lost some of the subtly presented by the recorded versions.

One of the beauties of Calexico has been its mishmash of sounds. Of course, there was a very strong Tex-Mex bent to the music. In fact, 7 of the 21 songs were in Spanish. Opening act Gaby Moreno, who also sings on the new album, provided a nice contrast, helping out on a bunch of the songs, including the very fine closing number "Guero Canelo."

While Burns took most of the vocals, he also ceded the stage to trumpet player Jacob Valenzuela.

The musical interplay of the seven band members remained sharp with co-founder John Convertino manning the drums (much to his chagrin, Burns had the lights turned up so the crowd could see Convertino - good move because it seemed to lighten the proceedings a bit).

Valenzuela also received ample support from Martin Wenk, who played a variety of instruments, although primarily trumpet and vibraphone. They were a solid one-two brass tour de force.

Guitarist Jairo Zavalo was superb on lead guitar, engaging in a fun back-and-forth at one point with the crowd.

Calexico offered a different version of its cover of Love's "Alone Again Or" with the band at the front of the stage and more of a laid back version without the verve of other live outings. That's no criticism as a band is entitled to mix it up and breath new life into its material.

Fortunately, Calexico made it from north of the border with band, if not bus, fully intact.

Moreno had an engaging opening set as well, which was very well received by the sold-out crowd. She was accompanied only by her bass player leading the emphasis to be on her and her vocals.

Moreno acquitted herself quite well in songs, like the headliners that were sung both in Spanish and English. Picking Moreno as an opening act made a lot of sense, and based on outings like this, this will not be the last time people hear from Moreno.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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