Well guys, this is as close as I get to an 'exclusive,' so enjoy! Last Thursday night, I was lucky enough to hear about an unannounced, last-minute show by Mark Mallman at the 400 Bar. Lucky for my lazy ass (this WAS a worknight), the set time was 9pm.
I've been looking forward to Mark's publicized, headlining gig later this month at the 400 Bar (Nov 24th w/ Espionage! and The Alarmists). But apparently, this was one of those spontanteous "can you play tonight?" sort of gigs and Mark was happy to step in and fill a slot. Due to the short notice, instead of his usual full complement of musicians, Mark came with a pared down configuration: just him, the new touring drummer (an incredibly talented Aaron LeMay, formerly of Planes for Spaces) and a digital recording of guitar, bass, etc. cued up by Aaron prior to each song. Sounds like it wouldn't come across live, but believe me when I say it does.
Mallman is famous for his live performances, including the so-called 'Marathon 1' and 'Marathon 2' gigs at the Turf Club in which he played continuously for 26 and 52 hours respectively. The 52-hour show almost made it into the Guiness Book of World Records! Bottomline, any live show from Mark is highly anticipated around here. Most shows aren't marathons, but he typically puts on a highly stylized, multiple-costume-change glam-influenced bonanza. Or so I've heard. You see, this was my first time to see him live. This is a shaming fact coming from an avid Twin Cities live music junkie, but true nonetheless.
So this isn't the Mark of legend I was seeing on a Thursday night with 30 other people (set time of only 45 minutes!) but it gave me a good flavor of what's to come later this month. First and foremost, Mark is a very charismatic performer. Secondly, he is a stellar piano player, singer and songwriter. Think of a glammier Billy Joel. And speaking of piano man, damn, the abuse Mark gives his poor keyboard is impressive. One moment he'll be laying across it in a sultry pose of mock-seduction, the next he climbs atop and stands, teetering in balance, to sing from the rafters. All of this and he never misses a note. He pauses between songs only to offer self-depracating acknowledgement of the non-existant crowd and thank us for coming to see the "Aaron LeMay Band" all the way from Champaigne, Illinois for their first show in the Twin Cities. Meanwhile, Aaron cues the next track, plays the straight man in Mark's routine and expertly leads each song with a working man's ethic. Together, they seared through some great new material found on the recently released Between the Devil and Middle C, an album I'm now inclinded to purchase. So, an all-around great gig, albeit abreviated. I consider it a teaser for the show on the 24th. It can only get better from here.