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Leb i Sol: Live in Macedonia

Nenad Georgievski By

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Leb i Sol
Live In Macedonia

Nothing in the world sounds like the band Leb i Sol. Period. For 20 years—as long as the band existed—it created music that was dynamic, turbulent, complex and soulful. During that highly productive period the band made 12 recordings, numerous film soundtracks, music for theatre and ballet, and played at places starting from those you can't find on maps to prestigious avenues, concert halls and stadiums. Most importantly, the band drew upon jazz, rock and traditional Macedonian music, and later it helped in the popularization of traditional music in the Balkans during a period when the genre called "world music" didn't exist and when traditional music was thought to be un-cool. This filling of a void helped the band to achieve a perennial appeal among generations of music fans who continued to buy their records many years after the group had, silently and unofficially, split up.

While the band's music and its influences became increasingly clear, especially as it reflected the styles and genres that were popular during those 20 years, and the band itself became subject to many analyses, it was the special breed of characters forming this band that best explains its evolution and essence. After the band played its last show, on the 18th of December 1995 and well before the 2 CD Anthology was released in 1996 (for its 20th anniversary), its band members had already begun to pursue more or less successful solo careers, showing their different tastes and more importantly, their strong individuality. align=center>

That miracles can happen even in our lifetime is the band's decision to celebrate its 30th anniversary by regrouping and setting off on a brief tour throughout the former YU republics. Before the announced tour began, they gave two performances at the antique theatres in Heraklea, Bitola and Ohrid, which were recorded for these releases. Prior to this live release, the band's only live documents were Akusticna Trauma (Acoustic Trauma), an excellent live portrait of the band during its first several years, and the misfortunate Live in New York at CBGB's. But the band was always better known and appreciated as a live act rather than as a record selling act. Leb i Sol made its reputation on location and reached its zenith when in 1992 the group had 4 consecutive sold-out performances at the exclusive Sava Centar in Belgrade.

But throughout those 10 years of retirement the band members remained in excellent shape, leading bands and projects of their own, and for them returning to this material is like McCartney going back revisiting the Beatles catalog. Since the early beginning they were recognized as masters of their instruments with distinct voices, a reputation well deserved as this DVD ably demonstrates.

The DVD also reveals the musicians' unflagging energy and passion, as they drive their music to new, soaring heights while taking the audience right along with them. Drummer Garo Tavitjan is the blood and bones of the music, playing with inhuman energy, variously shading the music with unusual timbres or driving it mad with powerful and complicated rhythms. Actually, he was the one who popularised uneven rhythms, thus making them one of the band's trademarks. Keyboardist Dimushevski provides a rich tapestry of sounds for the band, with solos that often evoke another era. Bassist Bodan Arsovski is the anchor of the band. In his hands, the bass becomes more than a supporting instrument: it's an instrument with a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, grooves and soloings. Stefanovski's precise guitar playing gives the band focus, though along with more than customary restraint he displays plenty of inspired guitar fireworks. align=center>

The repertoire is closely following the tracklisting from the Anthology CD, starting from the band's jazz-rock/fusion beginnings with "Aber Dojde Donke," "Devetka," and "Kako Ti Drago" to the later and more commercial "Skopje," "Cukni Vo Drvo" and standard pop=rock tunes like "Kao Kakao." But this is a DVD packed with highlights, and Leb i Sol revisits these tracks with the maturity you would expect of them. On some tracks they stick to the basic form; elsewhere they embark on lengthy improvisations.

As a bonus, there is a brief documentary with band member interviews and a new studio track—a cover of a traditional tune "Raspukala Sar Planina." The brand new track easily finds its place among the band's highlights. There is also a double CD released with the same title, and it has a few songs that do not appear on the DVD, thus making it a must have for the Leb i Sol collector.

The DVD is essential viewing for anyone interested in the band. The video and sound quality are both exceptional. With this disc the band proves that it is bigger than the sum of its parts.


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