Calexico brings Tijuana to Tel Aviv

Four years after their triumphant debut at the same club, Calexico returns as conquering heroes.

Calexico bandleader Joey Burns 370 (photo credit: Din Aharony )
Calexico bandleader Joey Burns 370
(photo credit: Din Aharony )
When I interviewed Calexico bandleader Joey Burns a few weeks ago, ahead of their two shows at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv, he called the seven-piece band’s performances a “celebration of life.”
That’s probably the best description of the proceedings onstage Thursday night, when guitarist/ singer Burns was joined by his musical partner John Covertino on drums and his five-immensely talented, multi-instrumentalist bandmates for two scintillating hours of magic.
Spurred on by the trumpet duo of Jacob Valenzeula and Martin Wenk, who sounded like Joshua bringing down the walls of a hacienda, the wildly eclectic music veered all over the map, but never strayed from the heart of the matter. Accordions, pedal steel guitars, maracas, keyboards and Spanish guitars were interchanged at will, with the musicians appearing as delighted with the results as the packed, enthusiastic audience.
Featuring over 20 songs and two encores, the lineup included a cross section of the Arizona- based outfit’s prodigious back catalog and a generous helping from their latest album Algiers.
Whether serving up syncopated electrified Mexican folk, country-tinged Americana, muted ballads, or rousing rock &roll - including everything from rousing covers of Love’s “Alone Again Or,” The Nightcrawlers’ “Little Black Eggs” and an intense snippet of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” - Calexico lived up to their reputation as one of the rock’s best currently touring live acts.
Burns is a natural front man, whether urging the band and audience on, reacting with dance steps and hand claps when the mood hits him, or acting as a good-natured cheerleader who just happens to sing and play guitar amazingly well.
Watching the band have a good time - with no rock star poses, ten-minute guitar solos or aloof attitudes, just quality, engaging music performed with vigor, passion and intent – was catnip for the audience. And they reacted with an outpouring of love for the band. Burns, before the encore, returned the sentiment saying in Hebrew, “We love you.” Four years after their triumphant debut at the same club, Calexico returned as conquering heroes. And they did not disappoint.Calexico Barby Club February 28