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Smash the smirk (humanifesto 41) That 'what me worry' thing?? That bloody smirk on his face, that 'where's Waldo'?? That thing he does with his eyebrows, and that little touch on the shoulder thing he does to people who don't have any respect for him; drives me f*ckin' nuts. ...

Náš člověk v Havaně
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Náš člověk v Havaně play an American-style of rock and roll with a decidedly Czech spin.

Save for part of one Bob Dylan cover, their lyrics were entirely in Czech leaving the Anglophone to bask in the band's musicianship. The band, who take their name not from any atavistic Communist leanings, but from the title of a Graham Greene novel Our Man in Havana, are composed of Ivan Dvořák on bass and vocals, Richard Hodonický on percussion, Jana Thálová on violin,
and Vojtěch Klímá on guitar and vocals.

For this performance, they were joined by drummer Michal Stančík and Pavel Križovenský on flute and saxophone. A rather short (at 30 minutes) first set, didn't seem very focused. It included forays into mid-tempo 70s rock, a fusion groove, funk, and prog rock.

When they started down this Jethro Tull-ish avenue, the deficiencies in Vojtěch's vocals started to become apparent. While being a very tight guitarist (all the members of Náš člověk v Havaně are crack musicians), he has a very narrow range and doesn't seem sure what to do with what he has. This is not a crime, but could keep a band with a lot going for it from reaching a wider audience.

After the first set the band took a twenty minute break which sort of broke the mood they'd been dancing around establishing. They opened the second set with a hypnotic rocker that concluded with Klímá repeating "Kolikrát?" as he flailed about the stage. He's about 6'2", and the set-up of the stage and the low lamps over it didn't make flailing an easy task.

The high point for the audience comprised of about 2/3 Czechs and 1/3 expats was Ivan's half-English piss-take on Knockin' on Heaven's Door. On one level he was making fun of a song which has had a lot of radio play recently thanks to a local cover of it. On another, they had so arranged it with a subtle reggae beat that it could have faded into No Woman, No Cry without difficulty.

The range of Náš člověk v Havaně's music is from white funk to white jam (think Wild Cherry meets Phish, I think), but they never let their performance crash into the Dark Stars. In the grand scheme this may be a good thing because there are too many mediocre bands playing that game. One does, however, sense a suppressed desire to let the bridges stretch out a little bit and can tell that they would know how to rein it all back in when necessary.

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