Concert Hall, May 13
One song can change a concert. While still more rousing and distinctive than most acts can dream of being, Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Band spent a proportion of their two hours on stage turning in the least mesmerising performance of their four Sydney visits. Then, as the last in long chain of encores, they unleashed Kalashnikov, and two thousand people went appropriately ballistic in response to the most thrilling song in Bregovic’s vast repertoire. Any vague sense of disappointment was swept away by the furious tempo, raucous singing, braying horns and electrifying arrangement.
The vague disappointment was partly due to the material’s homogeneity, given the return of this nine-piece version of the band, compared with the musical expanses traversed by the 19-piece and magnificent 37-piece versions. Compounding it was the focus on material from Bregovic’s most recent album, Three Letters from Sarajevo, yet without the requisite musicians to perform the violin-based instrumentals that are the record’s highlights.
There’s nothing wrong with the Serb and his Gypsies being in party mode. It’s just that the new material is a little uneven, ranging from the pedestrian Mazel Tov to the irrepressible groove of Baila Leila, with its blistering question-and-answer dialogue between the five horns and the wailing singing of Muharem Redzepi.
Another regret was that the use of samples has increased again, so Redzepi spent less time playing percussion, and perhaps the on-stage energy was slightly compromised by the players responding to automated drumming, for instance, rather than a flesh-and-blood participant. Then again, that didn’t hold Kalashnikov back!
Many of the old favourites were wheeled out, including a rousing Bella Ciao. But contrast is vital, and leavening the concert were the gorgeous Tango of the Soul, performed just by Redzepi, Stojan Dimov (clarinet) and Bregovic (whose guitar made a rare appearance in the foreground), and later the beguiling In the Death Car.
Now here’s a plan: what if the next time Bregovic comes, he and his band collaborate with one of our orchestras?