Gig review: Fanfare Ciocarlia at the Scala
15:00 24 January 2013
Fanfare Ciocarlia arrived in King’s Cross with a formidable reputation for rip-roaring live shows.
They hail from a small town in Romania and perform a highly energetic and at times downright ferocious brand of brass-driven Gypsy folk.
Sporting matching black suits, red shirts and fedoras, they casually ambled onto the stage in a downbeat introduction that gave little indication of the fiery activity to come.
As the tempo and decibel levels began to hot up, you couldn’t blame them for ditching their jackets and throwing off the hats.
Once they got into their groove it was a huge sound, with a booming rhythm section of bass horns and drums that rarely let up – surely they deserved a rest? – backing the lightning-fast Balkan melodies of the trumpet and sax contingent, which have a simple yet irresistible appeal.
They performed a bravura set with much bravado, the lead sax at times arching his back and pointing his instrument to the ceiling as he cut loose on a soaring solo, a towel draped across his shoulders like a heavyweight fighter.
Their spirit was infectious and the packed crowd were swept along, eagerly joining in with vocal riffs while dancing, clapping and kneeling down to the floor on command.
If it sounds relentless, there were some warm vocal passages, a jazzy reading of Duke Ellington’s Caravan, and an odd moment where Cerys Matthews of Catatonia fame popped up on stage, only to be serenaded Happy Birthday by the band and audience, before diving back into the crowd.
There was also time for a Gypsy-tinged rendition of a very appropriate rock classic – Born to be Wild.
The promoters reckon Fanfare Ciocarlia’s live shows capture the “mayhem” of an authentic Gypsy party, and while I can’t vouch for the authenticity, they certainly provided an exciting slice of controlled chaos.
* Fanfare Ciocarlia played the Scala in Pentonville Road, N1, on Sunday.