But the boys from Tuscon (via New Orleans) put on such a damned fine show that I couldn't let it pass un-noted in the Monday churn of weekend reviews.For all of its carefully curated sound and Joey Burns' singular voice, what continually dazzled me about Calexico was the steely backbone its rhythm section provided - and the fact that its rhythm section consisted of all seven members of the band. Along with the drums, pianos, maracas, triangles, electric guitars and trumpets all came together to keep a folksy and danceable time.
I say nothing new when I write that Calexico exemplifies everything that's wonderful about the Tex-Mex cloth it is cut from. And thanks in part to the band's latest sojourn to Algiers (across the Mississippi River from New Orleans), another Latin sound - one more Cuban than mariachi - has entered its repertoire. On Friday, the band executed those beats so perfectly that even the whitest men in the room couldn't help but attempt mangled salsa steps.
And that was all before the first encore, which featured Laura Gibson in a heartbreaking duet with Burns and a more lively - and crowded - guest appearance by DeVotchKa. By night's end, I was left with the impression that the band truly cared about putting on a good show. And for all that is exalted about artists forsaking popular acceptance in pursuit of their vision, it's kind of fun to be courted by the guys on stage. Burns practically begged the folks in the balcony to stand up and join the party.
In one miss-step, Burns compared the crowd to "Portland in 2008." No one got the reference, and a few lighthearted boos flew at the stage. Burn apologized.
"I forgot you guys have a weird thing going on," he demurred.