Calexico at the Olympia, Dublin on Thursday 14th of February 2013

There is an air of disappoint in the Olympia. It’s just before 8.30 on Thursday and The Dodos, a big band for a support slot and a reason many people turned up tonight, have just left the stage. Opening with Black Night, from 2011’s ‘No Color’, most of the twenty five minute set is filled with new, yet to be released music. The cameo is short, but certainly sweet at the same time.

It’s half an hour later by the time headliners Calexico come out. Playing as a seven-piece, the Arizona natives open with a rocking version of Epic, a song which counter-intuitively lasts only about four minutes. From there, it’s on to Across the Wire; a song that sounds so Tex-Mex with its high-pitched whoops, it borders on self parody. It’s not that the band don’t take themselves seriously, it’s just that they’re on stage to have fun and seem to be doing just that. The next song Spitter is an alt-folk number for a band seemingly intent on genre hopping.

The early part of the show continues in such a way and each section of the band, horns, guitars and keys specifically, are given suitable time to display their fine talents. And while the musical eccentricities are impressive, and frontman Joey Burns’ enthusiasm for the show is infectious, there is a little something lacking. It’s as though you’re listening to a soundtrack; the songs feeling more ambient than engaging.

But just as that thought crosses your mind, Calexico crank it up a notch. Not Even Stevie Nicks, a song Burns informs us will always remind him a newly engaged couple one drunken night in Whelan’s, is taken down a rocky path of pounding drums and guitar riffs. The path even veers into Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart before its closing. It’s the high point of the show so far, but for the next five songs, the show doesn’t fall from its peak.

Fortune Teller and Sinner in the Sea offer up real emotions before Crystal Frontier and Puerto show the type of raucousness that makes you wish it was a standing show. For Alone Again Or Burns really displays his showmanship. He orchestrates the crowd with clapping, cheering and generally having a great time. The audience eat it up and follow his every cue.

When they return for their encore they are in just as fine form. Burns leads the crowd in a call and response on their penultimate song. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that the song is in Spanish. Burns takes the time to thank the entire venue and tour staff before the final song. Vanishing Point is a sensitive, touching closer that earns the band a second standing ovation of the night. It’s a fine end to a fine show that long since washed away the disappointment of a short Dodos set.

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Photos: Aisling Finn