I was a little concerned for British rock band Fanfarlo on Thursday night. I knew they might have to compete with the much-anticipated Louisville v. Michigan State game, but I needn't have worried. With impeccable timing, the band was just setting up as Louisville put the final touches on its impressive win and a chant of C-A-R-D-S broke out from the outside patio. Now, everyone was ready for music.
Fanfarlo got things off to an impressive start of their own with new song "Replicate" and its steadily building drama, staccato vocals, violin, and creepy keys. I like the way the band creates a fully-textured, orchestrated sound with a variety of instruments, all the while keeping the songs catchy, appealing and approachable. Yes, you can dance to it, and a lot of people did. Fanfarlo played almost all of their new album, which is a particularly strong one.
Hearing the songs live allows you to appreciate the musicianship of each member. Simon Balthazar handles lead vocals and a variety of instruments, including guitar, often with Cathy Lucas in counterpoint on both backing vocals and violin. In the song "Tightrope," Lucas's low-voiced echo of Balthazar has a retro "Leader of the Pack" feel. And the horns. I love the horns. The swell of Leon Beckenham's trumpet is always a rather thrilling flourish, and Balthazar adds a little smoky saxophone to the sexy swing of "Tunguska." There are no slouches in this band. Justin Finch plays a distinctive bass line and Amos Memon keeps more than the beat on drums with some creative percussion work. They faced a few challenges with sound monitors cutting out (distracting to the band, but not to the appreciative audience). Balthazar also managed to use the occasion of another equipment problem to quip, "We're a keyboard down. It's having an off night -- like Michigan." Nicely done.
In addition to the newest songs, the band played some favorites from their debut album, including "Pilot," and their encore was the always rousing "The Walls are Falling Down." As it turns out, it was a good night for both basketball and music, with Fanfarlo delivering a well-crafted set of beautifully performed songs.
Simon Balthazar and Cathy Lucas of Fanfarlo in very moody lighting.
Leon Beckenham on trumpet
Balthazar with Justin Finch deep on bass
Balthazar on sax and Lucas on keys
Photo Credits: Lee Burchfield and Selena Frye