PHOTOBLOG: DEAR MARK J. MULCAHY, WORLD CAFE LIVE LOVES YOU – 3-10-14

Mark Mulcahy wails on his trusty Epiphone.  Settle in for some amazing songs, stories and smiles.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Mark Mulcahy wails on his trusty Epiphone. Settle in for some amazing songs, stories and smiles. Photo by Lynn Vala

For all intents and purposes, I had retired from covering live shows.  My body is old and beaten, your average concert attendant is more concerned with getting drunk and being obnoxious as opposed to sitting and listening to the performer du jour.  After all, you are talking to someone who was actually kicked in the head during a Nine Inch Nails show!  Some inconsiderate booby was running in the row behind my seat and clocked me in the head with his leg!

This was many years ago, before NIN had become the joke that it is today.

But when I got word through Facebook that Mark Mulcahy was coming to one of my all-time favorite venues, World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, the prospect of seeing Mulcahy live was too overwhelming to pass up.  Retirement be damned!

My first course of action was to reach out to the accommodating folks at WCL, specifically one Danielle F.  For those who have a history with the club, I used to have a relationship with Lauren Squazzo who moved on to greener pastures (as if there are any greener pastures than working at a killer club that has an upstairs bar with a stage for local and up and coming performers as well as hosting children’s shows, but is also affiliated with and houses Drexel University’s WXPN radio and has a killer theater/restaurant/bar in the lower level that has hosted acts from John Wetton, Laurie Anderson, Todd Rundgren, Robert Fripp’s words and music tour, to date his last solo US tour, Adrian Belew, Adrian Belew’s Power Trio and Power Trio bassist Julie Slick, a Philly native, as well as more that I am forgetting).

Every good wish to Lauren, but Danielle is equally a joy to work with.

Upon arrival at the club, we pick up tickets, photo pass, all the usual accouterment to get the job done.  We ascend to the lower level and as it is relatively early (it is Philadelphia, nearing the end of rush hour on a Monday, so we made sure we had plenty of time to get parking, get the passes/tickets, get in and get settled) I am given a good opportunity to check out the stage setup.  I am surprised by the amount of equipment on stage.  Remember, there was an opening act, Chris Hartford, so some of this gear belongs to his band.

Along with my surprise at the amount of equipment on stage, an additional surprise accompanied by the amazement of the fact that none other than Mark Mulcahy strolls across the stage, casual, nonchalant.  We make some eye contact and I smile the smile of someone about to be thrilled by an outstanding performance.  Or so I hope…

Opening artist, president of the Mark Mulcahy fan club and guest performer with Mulcahy Chris Hartford.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Opening artist, president of the Mark Mulcahy fan club and guest performer with Mulcahy, Chris Hartford. Photo by Lynn Vala

Hartford takes the stage, and he was FINE!  He purports to be the president of the Mark Mulcahy fan club.  Stanley Collado?  Elsa Kahlo?  Anyone want to dispute this?

After the usual set change over, Mulcahy time is now.  He takes the stage with little fanfare, for a talent such as he to have to take the stage and set up his own three foot pedal effects, shame.

Economy, making sure the job is done right to his specification, you MUST respect an artist who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty doing 'menial' work!  Photo by Lynn Vala

Economy, making sure the job is done right to his specification, you MUST respect an artist who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty doing ‘menial’ work! Photo by Lynn Vala

Just vocals fills the room for 'In Pursuit Of Your Happiness'.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Just vocals fills the room for ‘In Pursuit Of Your Happiness’. Photo by Lynn Vala

We start off with “In Pursuit Of Your Happiness” from the album of the same name. The harmonies are outstanding, short sweet, to the point.  Mulcahy and bassist Henning Ohlenbusch suited up with instruments and break into “Hurry, Please Hurry” from the amazing Fathering album.  If you are lucky enough, your local record store will have (for the first time ever) vinyl copies of the album available on Record Store Day this year, April 19.

DSC_0169

Bassist, guitarist, vocalist Henning Ohlenbusch is one-third of an amazing trio that performed amazing songs in an amazing venue. Photo by Lynn Vala

The bass drum on this track, supplied by Ken Maiuri (who also handled the concession stand, among other things to be revealed later) slams the room.  The trio flow through this track effortlessly.  The end falsetto vocal by Mulcahy is right on the money!  Amazing!  He doubles up the rhythm guitar at the end.

Drummers are always the hardest to photograph.  Especially when they wear stylin' hats!  Photo by Lynn Vala

Drummers are always the hardest to photograph. Especially when they wear stylin’ hats! Photo by Lynn Vala

Next up the first “leaked” single from the latest album Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, that being “She Makes The World Turn Backwards” which is tipped off by Mulcahy’s guitar intro.  While the version on the CD snaps, this live version is explosive!  Mulcahy starts to show the energy he displayed with Miracle Legion and Polaris.

Another one from In Pursuit Of Your Happiness is “I Have Patience”and it jumps right out in our face!  Yet another smokin’ version.  The choruses blow out once Mulcahy kicks in the distortion on his Epiphone.

Impressive how three guys can not only fill the room with sound, but also laughter.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Impressive how three guys can not only fill the room with sound waves, and also waves of laughter. Photo by Lynn Vala

The vocal breakdown is admittedly shaky, just missing heavenly.  Before the latter chorus they let out a falsetto ‘la la’ break that sounds like a Taliban attack!  Other than the misguided attempt at vocal terrorism, the version just simply rocks out!

Then, amazement of amazement, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles he pulls out “Saturnine” from the Polaris album Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete!!!  This is actually a song I used to do in my own set list!!!  But the plebeians in this podunk burg didn’t know what Saturnine meant.  To the dimwits in Scranton, you have Google, look it up!  Meanwhile, I am getting an up-close and personal guitar lesson.  He mixes up the melody at the chorus repeat.  Call it a vocal ad-lib ’cause it sounded good and made it fresh.

I always loved hearing (and playing) 'Saturnine'.  Seeing it played live, is staggering!  Photo by Lynn Vala

I always loved hearing (and playing) ‘Saturnine’. Seeing it played live, is staggering! Photo by Lynn Vala

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, after waffling back and forth about whether or not to break my retirement from reviewing live shows, when I finally said ‘this is too good to miss’ we were able to get front row seats to the show!  The pitiful part was, every other seat in the row was EMPTY!!!  We surely thought by now that people would at least arrive late.  Oh well, Mulachy still got paid as when we selected our seats, they were the only two left in the front row, so Mulcahy got paid and those people missed one out-of-this-world show!!!

Despite the nearly vacant front row, Mulcahy jokes between songs.  Confronting a clandestine yawner in the audience.  Demonstrating the various ways you can hide your yawn.  He also makes jokes about chairs, and other things.

Divine compositions, near-perfect renditions of tracks, and aserbic humor were the order of the night.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Divine compositions, near-perfect renditions of tracks, and aserbic humor were the order of the night. Photo by Lynn Vala

Things slow down to a lullaby tempo for “The Way That She Really Is” from SmileSunseT.  Mulcahy is a master of arranging and dynamic, as is vehemently displayed on this version.  One of the few showmen who can throw that yawning comment a curve ball.  I am impressed by Maiuri who is not only playing a brush part on the snare (and other drums) with one hand, but also playing a key solo on a nearby Nord keyboard with the other hand while maintaining the beat!  PRO-FESSIONAL!

It adds a new dimension to the phrase of power trio.  Mulcahy fingerpicks the end.  Gorgeous!

Next up we have “Badly Madly” from Dear Mark J. Mulcahy…  Unfortunately I have not had the chance to live with this album for a while (despite having reviewed the disc in this blog previously) so I must admit I am unfamiliar with this tune.  From an outsider’s view, it sounds like a nice song about nice people.  People who share the same woman.  Who feel so badly, because they didn’t love her madly, like Mulcahy does.  Only at one point, Mulcahy is one of those nice people who feels badly.  Regardless of who is on the receiving end of her love, the song is played with much gusto!

A favorite of mine is “The Quiet One” also from SmileSunseT.  They play this live version as straight as it gets.  The moving bass line in the chorus, the snappy drums percolate behind Mulcahy’s jangly guitar.  Especially in the end structure where they punch out Bb triplets to the end.

Next is another new song, I am not familiar with, I THINK the name is “Don’t Talk Crazy” from where, I do not know.  Sorry to let you down.  Also disappointing is Mulcahy’s pedal emitting a crack through his amps as he turns the pedal off.  While Ohlenbusch leaves the stage, Mulcahy carries on.  He clears his throat after the line ‘wish you wouldn’t die’.

Sometimes the emotional content of Mulcahy's songs even get to him.  Ever the trooper, the show must go on.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Sometimes the emotional content of Mulcahy’s songs even get to him. Ever the trooper, the show must go on. Photo by Lynn Vala

His wife did pass away in 2008.  This is a touching song, I wish I knew where it came from…

When Ohlenbusch returns, he instead grabs a guitar as Mulcahy grabs a harmonica for the Miracle Legion classic “The Ladies From Town” from the Me And Mr. Ray album recorded at Prince’s Paisley Park studios.  This live version is even more sparse than the one recorded at Prancing Prince’s Place, with only Ray Neal, Mulcahy and a drum machine.  With Mulcahy unencumbered by a mic stand holding the mic and the guitar, he whirls and twirls and hops and moves akin to the Miracle Legion days when he was “merely” a front man.  Since the drum part was only a snare and bass back beat, Maiuri plays keyboard bass and fills it up for the harp solo section.  They wrap it up nice and tidy!

Whirling dervish Mulcahy wails on harmonica during a Miracle Legion classic.  Photo by Lynn Vala

Whirling dervish Mulcahy wails on harmonica during a Miracle Legion classic. Photo by Lynn Vala

From the amazing Fathering album, Mulcahy’s first solo effort, we have “In The Afternoon”.  A laid back track if ever there was one.  Mulcahy has always been expert at minimalism.  The words matter on this.  Ohlenbusch pulls the bass off for choruses, but back in for bridges and verses.  For the solo, some keys are added by Maiuri.

DSC_0198

While Mulcahy is not perfect, he is human, and real! Photo by Lynn Vala

The next leaked track from Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You is “Let The Fireflies Fly Away”.  One of the new tracks, Mulcahy flubs a chord during verse one, but when they break into all sort of animal noises (and as a preamble to this song, Mulcahy invited us to add our own animal noises to further the concept of animals run amok).  As we come back from the silliness, Mulcahy flubs a chord in the outro chorus but who cares?  We were all still giggling  about the animals noises.

When the song is over, he ad-libs some commentary about yawny guy leaving.  The lesson here is, don’t go to a Mulcahy show tired.

Mulcahy then breaks into an explanation about the next song.  Think hotel, not sailing vessel or van line.  “I Woke Up In The Mayflower” from Fathering, then mutters a phrase and invites us to mumble along!  A risqué song that Mulcahy ad-libs some of the melody structures vocally.  They build this take up and up, only to break it down to stop it.

Did I mention dynamics?

By the time they get to the outro, it is big but the end verse is a breakdown leading to the crescendo end.

Another from Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You is “He’s A Magnet”.  The topic is as you’d expect.  Someone with a magnetic personality/personae. But the intro Mulcahy preaches is a surprise.  He dedicates this take to (as he refers to him) ‘your president’ Barack Obama.

Mark Mulcahy a Republican?

There is a spot where Ohlenbusch lets out a really nice fill into a part where he and Maiuri whistle with the bass line.  Sweet!  The song builds up steam and punches through the room.  Moreso when Mulcahy’s voice kicks in.  They go into a keyboard clavinet line to an a cappella end.

They call an audible and meet by the drums to confab.  Sensing that they have confabbed too long, Mulcahy figures why not confab at the front of the stage?  So all three members go to front center stage and stand there like mannequins.  Once they are done posing they call Hartford back.

They then play a song from an old opera, written in conjunction with long-time Mulcahy collaborator Ken Katchor, called The Slug Beareres of Kayrol.

Huh?

I consider myself a fairly rabid Mulcahy fan but sorry, this one is WAY off my radar.  But it all culminates in the Mulcahy remark “Jerry Lewis doesn’t matter”.

With Hartford, they do “All For The Best” from the Miracle Legion album Surprise Surprise Surprise.  I was even able to scribble down the chords to the song in between my sparse notes.  Another one added to the set list…  This version sounds happier than the original.  I think the tempo might be slower.  All I know is it makes me want Miracle Legion back.

By the end of this take, they are all explosive.  Hartford was way too loud.

They leave the stage, but return quickly.

For the first encore, Mulcahy assesses being in Philadelphia, and being near its historic bell.  With the bell in mind, he pulls out a cover.  Yup, it’s “You Can Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward.  Think I’m kidding?  Here it is:

Done in true Mulcahy style, this is the BEST VERSION OF THIS SONG EVER!

I have to stop seeing shows in Philadelphia…

For the a cappella chorus, keys are added.  They can’t be serious with this, even the venue turned on the disco ball!

Another audible is called.  He asks for requests, and ignores most of them.  But he does acquiesce to “Love’s The Only Thing That Shuts Me Up” from the EP of the same name.  Just Mulcahy on vocals and keyboards by Maiuri.  While this tune is minimalistic, about the joys of quietly enjoying romance, this next track is raucous and rowdy.

“Waiting For October” is explained as an ode to the end of the world as was dictated by yet another nameless, worthless ‘prophet’ who claimed the world would end October 28, 1999.  JUST a bit off the mark.

Mulcahy asks us to make a nuclear bomb noise at the end of the track like on the album, Music from the Adventures of Pete & Pete.  The song was sloppy and when Hartford was called upon to solo, he made more noise than I ever did in a guitar solo, and I am the duke of dissonance.

The audience ‘boom’ brings the show to a close.  Mulcahy, Maiuri and Ohlenbusch make a helluva power trio, and those who frequent this blog know my aversion to power trios.

Perhaps the best power trio you will find that doesn't rely on foot pedal synths (I'm talking to you, Geddy Lee).  Photo by Lynn Vala

Perhaps the best power trio you will find that doesn’t rely on foot pedal synths (I’m looking at you, Geddy Lee). Photo by Lynn Vala

A quick shot of an absconded set list.  My titles may be off from this list, as well as Mulcahy calling audibles throughout the show.  Photo by Lynn Vala

A quick shot of an absconded set list. My titles may be off from this list, as well as Mulcahy calling audibles throughout the show. Photo by Lynn Vala

If you are curious enough about Mulcahy (for those who have not heard of him before, as if…) you can check out a plethora of things Mulcahy at http://www.mezzotint.com

You can find most of the Mulcahy catalog here on Mezzotint.  Plus a few other things.  As is my usual rhetoric, please buy from the artist directly, it benefits the artist in the most direct and profitable way.

I have some thanks to give, apart from Danielle, and Elsa Kahlo, I must give props to Russ Brooks (that’s Lord Russ to you!) who verified the names of Mulcahy’s cohorts, Tim Schwarz for the photo of the set list, and Jennifer Baniszewski who supplied the “Ring My Bell” video via YouTube.

The question that needs to be answered I suppose is, ‘was this worth coming out of live concert retirement for’?  Without a doubt.  To see an artist of Mulachy’s magnitude in a venue South of Connecticut (he tends to frequent his home base of Massachusetts and the New England areas), and to have him play in the intimate venue that is World Cafe Live was totally worth venturing back into the realm of inconsiderate boobies.

Although there was that one doofus who kept stepping on my feet and tripping over my cane…

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One Response to “PHOTOBLOG: DEAR MARK J. MULCAHY, WORLD CAFE LIVE LOVES YOU – 3-10-14”

  1. Roberta Says:

    Nice post! The opening musician’s name is actually Chris Harford, and yes he is awesome. Hope I get to see Mark Mulcahy soon!

    Like

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