Madrid Colegio Mayor San Juan Evangelista

April 19, 2005

by John Gill

Reunited, lean, muscular, stroppy and cruising for a bruising. Tuxedomoon is a monstrous and beautiful thing to behold. Sneak into their soundcheck and you’ll see what makes this group unique. Drumless, they are anchored by the seismic bass of the Buddha-like Peter Principle. Flamboyant violinist, guitarist and singer Blaine Reininger tunes up toying with fragments of Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie”. Reedsman, pianist and fellow singer Steven Brown dips into Coltrane’s version of “My Favourite Things” and others besides. Horn player Luc Van Lieshout just blows a gale and tinkers with his harmonica. Visual artist George Kakanakis manipulates live video of the musicians and Pollock-like abstractions on a large screen.

Brown is exquisitely melancholy on grand piano, and insouciantly elegant on his reeds. When he and Reininger duet on vocals, Blaine has great fun playing the schmaltzy crooner, while Brown summons up an icy dread. Reininger is the Sinatra to Brown’s Jim Morrison and, in a sense, the Twain to his Poe. Van Lieshout horns are an elemental force with echoes of Miles’s mute.

Pop all these into a particle accelerator with added electronics and treatments - Blaine singing through his miked-up violin, making space station alarm noises with his foot pedals, or letting rip with apocalyptic jackhammer sequencers (“Diario Di Un Egoista”) - and you get the quantum physics that is a Tuxedomoon gig. This comeback tour is dominated by 2004’s ravishing release Cabin In The Sky, although there is a brace of favourites: “The Waltz” off Holy Wars, and the title track from Desire.

There are moments of quiet beauty, not least Brown’s languid piano and noir reeds, and at moments when Van Lieshout’s harmonica and Reininger’s violin produce mutant bluegrass, but there are also sonic barrages that can pin you to the wall. I don’t remember a Tuxedomoon concert this raw and visceral, not least the full-on Situationist funk of “Luther Blisset” - imagine Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter jamming with A Certain Ratio with some Charles Ives-like intertextuality at work.