The Black Box. 15/2/2012
The numbers are a bit thin on the ground for this showing in the Black Box. Possibly it’s the mid-week, mid-term excuses but nonetheless, with this 60 strong crowd, the show must go on. We’re here to see ‘The Wiyos’, who tonight, are popping their Belfast cherry.
The New-York 5 piece take to the stage looking like they may actually have hitch-hiked here from 30’s, wearing an array of hats and suits that wouldn’t be out of place in Boardwalk Empire. The attire makes sense when they start, a definite rag-time, tin-pan alley feel from the first couple of numbers. These lads look like the music they play has engulfed even their appearance. Belfast is loving it.
The New Yorkers can play, sickeningly so, The Wiyos are all great players. Driving upright bass, slick lines on the keys, and an occasional dip onto the lap-steel guitar makes for a finger-licking musical pot. Centre-man Michael Farkas looks and plays the part, he’s a demon on harmonicas of all sorts and also stands behind a percussion rack of things that go toot, squeak and boing. Better still, he’s sings and chats with a thick New York accent - he’s the real deal.
The music has many different influences. You can hear obvious old-time influence, but also blues, rockabilly and the odd irresistible Steely-Dan chord progression. A lot of the set is made up of tunes inspired by the 1939 blockbuster ‘The Wizard of Oz’, songs about The Lion, Toto and the gang. It might sound pretentious but it’s delivered with class and shows that they aren’t just a one trick pony. An abundance of styles within these songs seems to work, at times trippy, always clever and above all, very, very good.
In 2009 they opened for Bob Dylan for 28 dates, and tonight you get the feeling that they are just going through the motions, highlighted by the comedy number about shaving cream which you’d imagine would have the Yanks rolling round, here it manages a few chuckles at best.
One highlight is a harmonica solo from Farkas, it’s a foot-stomping performance sucking us all in, we could be in Manhattan. After it, however, we’re back in Belfast. This crowd loves them and they rifle through a hearty encore. Not the most spell-binding performance, but to these lads it’s effortless. They're a super-slick band and undeniably, them cats can play. Let’s churn out a bigger crowd next time these New-Yorkers cross the Atlantic to the metropolis of Belfast.