Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog @De Roma, Antwerp BE – 1 February 2024

Marc Ribot has been touring in Europe this year with his Ceramic Dog project for the promotion of the group’s fifth album, Connection.

This power trio is quintessential to Marc Ribot’s credentials, well-know for his astonishing ability of being able to approach any style, from punk to jazz to Cuban to rock’n’roll and practically anything else in between, deconstructing and rebuilding harmonies in mindful dissonance, and still sounding like himself. The back catalog of Ceramic Dog begins in 2008 with the debut album Party Intellectuals. Five albums later, still accompanied by the bassist Shahzad Ismaily and the Secret Chiefs 3’s drummer Ches Smith, Marc Ribot keeps offering to his audience one of the most unique genre-defying worldviews.

In Belgium, we had the chance to see Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog in the beautiful De Roma venue.

The group took the stage quickly and began to play right away. After a warming-up intro with guitar loops blending into complementary drumming, the band dived directly into their new album with the title track. ‘Connection’ brought into the venue the unmistakable sound signature of Marc Ribot’s guitar which stayed until the end of the show. ‘Digital Handshake’, from their debut album, was a sensible follow-up. The audience may have occasionally covered their ears to minimize the feedback effects, but rest assured that the link between noise and music was never missed. With Marc Ribot, the erratic tempo shifts and high pitch chords are never left to chance.

The next songs were a sonic journey through various styles present on the new album. We watched a garage-punk anti capitalist manifesto with Subsidiarity, were offered post-psychedelic vibes from ‘Ecstasy‘, and got carried away on the bluesy ‘Order of Protection‘.

Among the older songs performed that night, one can’t help thinking that ‘Lies My Body Told Me’, from the 2013 album Your Turn, was one of the setlist’s highlights. Nevertheless, ‘Maple Leaf Rage’ from their previous album Hope, sounded fantastic live. Named or not in homage to Scott Joplin’s ragtime, it is purposely constructed in two distinct parts, a first where the sound prudently attempts to break out, and a second where it does bursts out in anger and systemic disorder. This song on stage possesses an extra energy that highlights the changes in pattern much stronger than on the studio version.

Marc Ribot is not a man of many words on stage. There are no pauses between songs, they just  blend into each other. Except the occasional band members’ introduction, he only introduced some of their many song manifestos, including ‘Ecstasy’ and ‘Soldiers in the Army of Love’ from the new album.

At encore, we navigated through styles for one last time, from a pensive mood with the performance of  Ribot’s rendition of Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Sometime Jailhouse Blues’ to a playful dance invitation in cumbia style.

History might repeat itself out there but Marc Ribot certainly never does. His unusual approach to music and his distinctive style have made Ribot one of the most original guitarists of present times and his Ceramic Dog project is a great example of this.

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Author: ywannish