Saturday, December 8, 2007

balkan beat box @ irving plaza, 12/6/07

though nu-med still hasn't won my heart (i find it much more derivative, world music-y, and less dancey than the band's self-titled debut), there was still no way i was skipping the balkan beat box show at irving plaza thursday night - after all, their gig in april was one of my favorite of the year, and i can always use more dancing in my life. once again, the band was on fire, electrifying the room with their middle eastern grooves and high-energy sax solos, but show didn't really compare to their previous nyc extravaganza.

dj rekha, queen of basement bhangra, kicked the show off, but without much success. she spun a mix of subcontinental house, arab dance anthems, and middle eastern remixes of songs like "hot in herre," which made the crowd bob and weave a bit, but in a distracted fashion. considering that rekha hadn't been listed on the bill, it wasn't much of a surprise that most people weren't tuning in - they were there for bbb, and only bbb.

as always, balkan beat box were immensely crowd-friendly and charismatic, frontman tomer yosef leaping across the stage, gesticulating and singing wildly, inspiring lots of booty-shaking and grooving on the floor. unfortunately, their set was almost entirely taken from nu-med, with only two or three songs from their debut. while i'm really into some nu-med songs (like itunes bonus track "ramallah tel aviv," which closed their set - see video below), i find far too many of them to be a little tiresome and repetitive. the formula became a just succession of solos around a catchy core, instead of the tightly regimented rhythms that made them so appealing in the first place. their live show has mutated into jamming showcase, turn-taking between saxophonists peter hess, founder ori kaplan, guitarist jeremiah lockwood, and bassist itamar ziegler, so that the crux of the songs are lost in all the soloing. it's a good show, and i guess it's my fault for expecting the choreography of the studio to translate into the live environment, but that doesn't really assuage my disappointment.

aside from that, i had a great time. for "la bush resistance," yosef climbed the stacks next to the stage, shouting his anti-bush song from a pedestal, though was a little more restrained on final encore "cha cha," where he was cooped up behind his drum kit. as before, lockwood took a solo turn mid-set, his guitar staccato and versatile. kaplan and co-founder tamir muskat faced off for a sax-drum solo, and the dancing was great. that being said, though bbb has another new york date scheduled for february, i don't know if i'll go. balkan beat box used to symbolize a resistance to the unimaginative beats of world music, but they're increasingly heading in that direction, and i don't think i want to see them go down that road further.

"ramallah tel aviv"

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