Monday, June 6, 2011

Bedouin Soundclash concert review

courtesy MSO Public Relations
A version of my review originally appeared at

Bedouin Soundclash was only a few songs into its Galaxy Theatre performance late Friday night when Sekou Lumumba did a long drum solo amid “National Water” (from debut disc Root Fire).

Very unusual. Typically, you'd see this happen toward the middle or end of a performance, ostensibly to give the singer a break. Maybe the band wanted to give its new timekeeper - formerly of popular Canadian hard rockers Thornley - an early spotlight to preview all the impressive rhythms to come. Front man Jay Malinowski and bassist Eon Sinclair were definitely in awe, as they watched from the side of the stage and later resumed the song.

On Tuesday, the Juno Award-winning roots rock/reggae trio from Toronto finally unveils Light the Horizon on CD (the digital version has been available since last October).

Just the fourth studio album since Bedouin formed a decade ago right out of college, Horizon was released on the band's own Pirates Blend label via National Geographic Music. Produced by Digable Planets associate King Britt, the atmospheric collection downplays previous Clash and Police influences, ups the soul quotient and expands the sonic palette with winning results (no mean feat; 2007’s Street Gospels was one of my top album picks of that year).

Best of all is a luxurious duet between Malinowski and young Quebec sensation Beatrice Martin, who records under the moniker Coeur de Pirate (what is it with these Canucks and pirates?). Both vocalists also collaborated with members of The Bronx on the recent Armistice EP.     

In Santa Ana, the group played to a sparse, but enthusiastic crowd. The 70-minute set kicked off in rocking fashion with “Mountain Top,” the first of a half dozen Horizon songs. Malinowski dedicated the loping old school reggae groove of “St. Andrews” to all the rude boys in the crowd; it had a much rawer kick than on album. The guys locked into a taut rhythmic formation during “Jeb Rand” and the high energy poppiness of “Gyasi Went Home” was a delight.

Malinowski’s endearingly fragile vocals were in the forefront on the acoustic guitar-led “12:59 Lullaby” and his passionate pipes soared to new heights for concert standout “Elongo.” Before a jubilant take on “When the Night Feels My Song,” he espoused the importance of having good friends in life and segued into a bit of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”

Come midnight, the audience thinned out more. Diehard enthusiasts still gathered in the pit, pogoing right along to the high energy, fierce reggae finale “Nothing to Say,” where Sinclair giddy shouted backing vocals. Too bad more people didn’t witness this solid show.

Following two other openers was Brothers of Brazil, an intriguing Rio duo comprised of siblings Supla (a drummer/vocalist who looked like he stepped out of the Damned circa 1977) and Joao (a guitarist/vocalist with a sleek suited Chris Isaak vibe).

The pair hosted a Brazilian cable music show and will release its American debut album next month on SideOne Dummy Records. Their self-described “punkanova” is a unique blend of bossanova, samba and rock with lyrics sung in English and Portuguese. 

Trading off on vocals, the lively set was bookended by their own theme song and highlighted by such tongue in cheek tunes as “Take the Money and Run Away to Rio,” “Vanity Funk” and “I Love the French,” which Supla started by blowing a whistle.

Setlist: Bedouin Soundclash at the Galaxy Theatre, Santa Ana, Calif. June 3, 2011
Main set: Mountain Top/St. Andrews/Fools Tattoo/National Water/Shadow of a Man/The Quick and the Dead/Gyasi Went Home/A Chance of Rain/Jeb Rand/12:59 Lullaby/Elongo/Walls Fall Down/When the Night Feels My Song (incorporates Stand By Me)/Living in Jungles
Encore: Rolling Stone/Nothing to Say

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