Making their Olympia debut the seven piece band played a seamless and absorbing mix of song from their new album Algiers along with favourites from their previous albums. This was a partisan audience here for the first night of their European tour and to celebrate St. Valentine's Day. Calexico proved a suitable band for the occasion as there is more than a hint of border romance in their music. While it may not have been the most memorable gig that longtime Calexico fans would consider - that would, arguably be either The Button Factory against the backdrop of western movies and their gigs at The Kilkenny Rhythm and Roots Weekend. However it was still a special show.
The twin founders of the band are guitarist/vocalist Joey Burns and master percussionist John Convertino. They were joined by regulars Paul Niehaus on pedal steel and guitar and Martin Wenk and Jacob Valenzuela on trumpets, keyboards, guitars and sundry percussion. They were rounded out by two additional members on upright and electric bass and keyboards. These players moved between several instruments often in the space of one number however the overall texture applied to their songs were an important part of the atmosphere of each song. There is a filmic quality to their music that is readily apparent live as it is on record.
There wasn't too much between song conversation although Joey Burns told the assembled fans that he was "really happy to be in Ireland on Valentine's Day". He wished us a "Happy Valentine's Day" at the top of the show but largely let the music do the talking. It lived up to the band name delivering aired psychedelics of California with the hot flavours of Mexico's musical heritage. The spanish guitar sound and twin trumpets conjured that image. Though at one point with Niehaus and Burns both played electric guitars and added a heavier element to the sound.
The songs featured several songs from Algiers like Fortune Teller and Maybe On Monday alongside selections from the albums The Black Light, Hot Rail amongst others. The penultimate song in the main set was a cracking, faithful rendition of Arthur Lee's Alone Again Or, whose band Love who undoubtably were an influence on Calexico in their formative years. Few would have been disappointed with their night out. Burns and Convertino have led this band since it's inception and have grown with the band. Burns vocals have grown into a vital and powerful asset and Convertino is an outstanding drummer. Calexico are a unique and purposeful band and the Olympia was an ideal place to start a tour. The applause throughout was real and both sides of the stage seemed to enjoy the experience.