Gig review: The Klezmatics at the Union Chapel

Furious showmanship and charisma of US klezmer virtuousos leaves audience spellbound

Marking their first UK appearance in almost a decade, the Union Chapel was fortunate to play host to the Grammy award winning virtuosos, the Klezmatics, in a sold-out gig organised by the Jewish Music Institute.

Since their inception in 1986, the New York-based band’s globetrotting has helped to boost the profile of klezmer music no end.

They have done so whilst incorporating other styles that complement the brand of Jewish folk music that spawned them.

In fact, their Grammy was attributed to an album of music written to the accompaniment of words written by the late great American songwriter, Woody Guthrie.

For the faithful, this gig was a chance to revel in the technical showmanship and dazzling interplay from the world’s foremost klezmer exponents. For the uninitiated, it was an opportunity to delve into a careering, varied and enriching musical voyage. There were plenty of genres on offer, including traditional klezmer with some jazz and folk inflections.

Frontman Lorim Sklamberg displayed impressive vocal chops while handling a multitude of instruments. The rest of the band were equally adept, managing to switch instruments and styles with ease.

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As an audacious statement of intent, the audience were treated to a melodic and mannered drum solo only two songs in before the rest of the band joined in.

Stripping things back, there was a mid-set standout in the form of Lazarus, a sparse, aching and mournful lament. The decision to pitch the Guthrie songs together was a potent move, and Gonna Get Through This World shone particularly brightly.

At times, some of the furious displays of musicianship fell on the wrong side of indulgence, but there was enough efficiency, charisma and warmth to entertain, leaving those in attendance joyfully spellbound.

* The Klezmatics played the Union Chapel in Compton Avenue, N1, on Sunday October 21.