Tucson-based Calexico expertly embody the sounds and feel of the US-Mexican border. With influences from traditional Latin American sounds, American country music and indie rock, they create an exciting soundscape best described as desert noir. In a live setting, what really stands out is how heart-felt their passion is for these styles.
The band starts with excitement-builder ‘Epic’, but the show really kicks off with ‘Across The Wire’. Over mariachi trumpet flushes and Hawaiian slide guitar, Burns sings about two Mexicans attempting to cross the border. It’s a great way to set the scene, and the crowd sways in 3/4 time. The momentum continues to build with the crowd’s clapping, cheering and Mexican vocal trilling growing ever louder. The band play a range of material from their latest New Orleans-inspired release Algiers and their prolific back-catalogue. And as they play, it’s apparent how gifted they are. With horns, double bass, accordion, keyboard, maracas and a druggy vibraphone, all eight members are brilliant multi-instrumentalists.
Lead singer Joey Burns is a charming and charismatic frontman, and it’s clear he’s having as much fun as the audience. In the slower songs Burns shows a real intensity and depth to his vocals, while backing singer Valenzuela stylishly delivers up-tempo verses in Spanish. Throughout the 90 minute set, Calexico are engaging, enthusiastic and unique. With passion and talent, they brought the spirit of the US-Mexican border to Leeds.
Words: Peter Hufton