Saturday 11 February 2012

The Wiyos at The Cluny

The Wiyos
The Cluny, Newcastle

The Wiyos

The last time I saw The Wiyos, they debuted some songs for their forthcoming CD, based on the Wizard of Oz. This year's tour featured the new material, with virtually the whole of the first 60 minutes being devoted to Twist.

The familiar sight of the tree of percussion occupied centre stage before The Wiyos appeared. One could easily spend a considerable amount of time analysing the contents of the stage. 

Look carefully for an air raid siren and...
...a bag of nuts

Twist (reviewed here) is a truly extraordinary piece of work. It was brought to life at The Cluny by an equally extraordinary performance.

The harmonica and a few jingles on the tree of percussion started a slow and warped version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and the rest of the Wiyos joined in one by one, with bass, keyboards, drums and guitar all contributing little bits and pieces. The fabulous opening line, ‘Last night my house came down on a witch…’, heralded an evening of top quality entertainment.

There are now five Wiyos. Michael Farkas, Teddy Weber and Sauerkraut Seth Travins were all together last year, when they were joined by special guest Andy Bean (one half of the Two Man Gentleman Band). This time, the core trio were augmented by Brian Geltner (drums) and Kenny Siegal (keyboards and guitar). The new instruments fill out the sound, allowing the extremely intricate Twist to be unleashed with the force of a Kansas twister.

Kenny Siegal (left): keyboard and guitar

 A performance with a Twist
Playing a concept album almost in its entirety changes the dynamic of a show. There wasn't any chat between the songs, as there had been last year (at least, not until the Twist segment had reached its conclusion); instead there was only the very occasional introductory line, kept in context so as not to break the spell. For example, 'Scarecrow'  was prefaced by the comment, ‘This one goes out to the man in the field’.

Harmonies form an important part of the repertoire, both vocally and otherwise. Hearing a harmonica and trumpet in perfect harmony is quite unusual but highly effective, completely in keeping with the desire of The Wiyos to push out the boundaries and create something totally unique.

Michael Farkas and Teddy Weber - veteran Wiyos
Full concentration on the legendary tree of percussion
As Twist blew itself to a close, the 'fourth wall' was knocked down and the spell was broken. It was back to a more anecdotal approach and a couple of old favourites to compete the set. First we were treated to the fast-paced The Natty Dread Polka (a fabulous song from Foxtrots, Polkas and a Waltz), complete with a full range of instruments to go with the clever lyrics, including trumpet and kazoo. This was followed by Promenade (from Broken Land Bell), which had a false start and a quick readjustment (‘Gotta have a tight thumb pick for that one’).

Attention was drawn to a beautiful, limited edition book, which contains a copy of Twist with different disc art to the regular version, full CD lyrics and lavish illustrations. Watch out for the book, which is for sale on the tour. There''s even a sauerkraut recipe printed on the back.
Sauerkraut Seth - a man with recipes
Yet another instrument
Another new addition - the beard wasn't there last year!
There was still time for an encore, which was Blues-based. First we had Cluck Old Hen and then the finale was Charlie Poole's The Milwaukee Blues, featuring an extraordinary extended Farkas solo.

Extended solo
What a night! My advice is to get out and see The Wiyos on their UK tour. We want them to come back again as soon as possible.
A rare shot of all five Wiyos

For further information, please visit the official website of The Wiyos.

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