Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Babylon Circus Live at Drom, NYC 4/23/08

Frequently referred to as the French Gogol Bordello, a better comparison would be Balkan Beat Box. Both bands are horn-driven, love their gypsy melodies and bring the party. Last night at Drom, Babylon Circus had the packed house pogoing throughout their roughly hourlong set. With a three-piece horn section, keyboards, sometimes two guitars and rhythm section, they played as tightly and boisterously as one would expect from a band that spends as much time on the road as they do. Their sound is unique, equal parts ska and gypsy rock, with sardonic, witty lyrics in both French and English. Theatricality and audience participation are trademarks of their live show, and they played it up for all it was worth, inviting people from the crowd up onstage to dance and cajoling those seated at the adjacent booths to get up on their feet and join the fun.

Babylon Circus’ vibe is both hippie and punk. While they preach peace, their sly lyrical narratives softpedal the politics. This is obviously an intelligent band: they realize that the best way to get a point across is put the crowd in a party frame of mind first. Though frontman David Baruchel is still recovering from the effects of a near-fatal fall at the end of a concert in Russia a couple of years ago (a blow to the head left him suffering from the occasional grand mal seizure), it was impossible to tell. Clearly accustomed to playing larger stages, he staked out what little room he had, leaping and bounding with the rest of the band. Their best song, an anti-violence number, saw the band members dropping one by one as the sax player shouldered his instrument, taking aim while the drummer supplied the ammunition. Thought most of the set was upbeat material, much of it from their energetically tuneful most recent album Dances of Resistance, they brought it down for a couple of slower, darker reggae numbers delivered by their other singer Manuel, who proved adept at fast and furious dancehall toasting.

Although Baruchel’s English is good, his repartee with the audience didn’t match the subtlety of his lyrics: “How ya doing New York, make some noise!” might work in Lafayette, Louisiana (the next stop on the tour), but it didn’t cut it in what’s left of the East Village. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the band hasn’t played that many shows in their home country lately. If you think New York audiences are jaded, see a couple of shows in Paris.

April 24, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment