Issue 557 : June 1, 2006 - June 7, 2006

Top live show
Joe’s Pub; Sat 3

Photo by Harari

Imagine an old-world Neapolitan crooner thrust into a land of space-age synth, twangy guitars and an electronic pulse, and you’ll get a sense of the eerie journey Avion Travel takes its listeners on. Formed in 1980, this Italian art-pop band has a jet-setting name, and a prestigious reputation throughout Europe. If
La Dolce Vita were ever remade, the group’s elegantly sinister café music would fit nicely; it hints at the thrills and perils of roaming openhearted through a cold, technological world. Lead singer Peppe Servillo’s tense murmur is the sound of a tour guide in a haunted house. He and his colleagues lend a shiver to the Italian song styles of the past by merging them with tango, Brechtian cabaret, ’50s-ish cool jazz and other forms that smell of danger and desperation. Avion Travel has earned five awards at Italy’s San Remo Festival; the latest two were for “Sentimento,” the tale of a modern-day Captain Ahab who sets sail through angry waters, determined to conquer the world.

Like Ahab, this onetime cult act has gone far. It can be heard on Italian commercials, film soundtracks and 13 CDs, including the internationally hailed
Cirano, which was produced in 1998 by Arto Lindsay. Now Avion Travel is bound for Joe’s Pub, the Manhattan haven of many European headliners who would never play such a small venue in their native lands. Anyone with a touch of fearless wanderlust should feel right at home.—James Gavin