Calexico | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Calexico 

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Calexico used to be a sideline for unrepentant instrumentaholics John Convertino and Joey Burns, but eight years down the road it's their main gig. Who can blame them? The band affords them the chance to play whatever they want, both instrumentally--Convertino plays drums, vibes, guitar, piano, and accordion, while vocalist Burns can make anything with strings sound good--and stylistically. Feast of Wire (Quarterstick), the duo's latest release, broadens their established blend of twangy, noirish rock narratives, Latin rhythms, and mariachi horns to include a plaintive piano-and-cello interlude, some grimy electronic beats, and a convincing stab at slick cop-show jazz. The album's first single, the atmospheric "Quattro (World Drifts In)," has made the jump from college to commercial radio. Scraping, a self-released live CD that the band is selling on tour, illustrates what built Calexico's audience long before they were deemed XRT-worthy--for a couple of confirmed studio rats, Burns and Convertino put on one hell of a show. Burns whips up a storm on guitar like you've never heard on their studio records, and the live band that plays with him and Convertino--trumpeter Jacob Valenzuela, Lambchop pedal-steel guitarist Paul Niehaus, double bassist Volker Zander, and multi-instrumentalist Martin Wenk--breathe fiery energy into the songs. Wednesday, October 1, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. Thursday, October 2, 12:30 PM, Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State; 312-606-0750.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Emily Wilson.

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