Poi Dog Pondering: Just Short of Nirvana

Swinging a lighted spinning globe on a darkened stage while singing "take a trip around this great big world" at Bogart's on Wednesday, Poi Dog Pondering's frontman Frank Orrall pretty muched summed up what the group is about. The eight-piece Austin-by-way-of-Honolulu outfit tried to offer a bit of just about every music on the orb.

Seamlessly combining Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" with the "Get Smart" theme was the least of Poi Dog's undertakings in a 19-song set that also melded the textures of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" with African high-life rhythms, the effervescence of Jonathan Richman's pre-teen pastorals with the mood of the Stones' "Midnight Mile," and Celtic stomps with West African bass figures.

While he is an exuberant performer, Orrall's limited voice and weightless lyrics were the only things keeping the band from utter nirvana. Instead of the layered acoustic folk sound of its recent album, Poi Dog went for an electric, highly Africanized world-beat sound spiced with violin, fluegelhorn, accordion, tin whistle and other esoterica. Unlike the sterile approach of many U.S. world beaters, Poi Dog (which will be at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano tonight) played as if it were trying to foment a playground riot--and probably could have with a pumping soul revue encore version of Elvis' "Burning Love."

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