Mexrrissey: Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

On the surface, Mexrrissey probably strike you as a joke band: eight Mexicans, one of whom is the spitting image of Sacha Baron Cohen (Liber Teran, one of Mexrrissey’s three vocalists), covering songs by Morrissey and The Smiths as if young Stephen Patrick had grown up on the streets of Roma Norte rather than Manchester.

And you know what, there are laughs to be had. Camilo Lara, who you might be surprised to learn provides sampling and electronics has a really pleasant way about him with the in-song banter. They didn’t know people from Leeds would like Morrissey, they thought he just appealed to people from Mexico, they were really surprised.

It isn’t long before everyone in the room is smiling because these Mexrrissey boys (and girl) are just so damn good. They open with “El Primero del Gang “which translates as “The First of the Gang to Die”, with lead guitarist Chetes (imagine a Mexican Steve Marriot) on vocal duty. It isn’t until Ceci Bastida steps out from behind her keyboards and lays into “Every Day is Like Sunday”, “Last of the Famous International Playboys” (rechristened “International Playgirls” for her benefit) and “Ask” that the night starts to cook. Ceci is Mexrrissey’s secret weapon.

Bastida is not the only weapon. What quickly becomes apparent is that Mexrrissey is a tight ensemble and every individuals contribution makes the band what it is. From the ferocious trumpet of Alex Gonzales, which pushes Mexrrissey into Calexico country, to the rigid backbone provided by Ricardo Najera on drums. Imagine The National’s Bryan Devendorf with a hint of Karl Burns; there is a point when Ceci joins Ricardo for some double drumming that recalls vintage The Fall – wouldn’t a German version of The Fall be a great idea.

Also worth mentioning are the Terry Gilliam-esque animations that provide a backdrop to the on-stage entertainment. Morrissey is transformed into Frida Kahlo (or was it Carmen Miranda?) and another image where his head is decapitated ensuing in other members of The Smiths, pianos and horses flying out of his noggin. In fact, despite how good it is, the animations provide the only low point of the night as they start to be played on a loop about a third of the way in. It would have been great to have seen more original animations throughout the entirety of the performance.

The band never miss a trick. A rousing take on “Panic,” which harks back to the version of “Shout” that Otis Day and the Knights perform in “Animal House” and booming versions of both “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “How Soon is Now?”, both of which serve to underline the fact that Mexrrissey are more than simply a tribute act. They just make sense.

And they’re actually a little bit easier to love than a certain gentleman whose name we won’t mention.

(Feature image Roger Alarcon)