Malojian ‘Southlands’ album launch
Friday 29th May 2015 – No Alibis, Belfast
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but hosting a show in a venue that strays from the well-worn path of bar shows can be a real treat. There are of course plenty of great live venues around Belfast but the more unique venues set a show apart. Two years ago Stevie Scullion, better known the moniker Malojian, launched his first solo album on Belfast’s barge. A second album means a second launch, and this time around Scullion opted to play two shows in a bookshop. The two sold out launch shows for ‘Southlands’ took place in Botanic Avenue’s No Alibis bookshop.
So on Friday night No Alibis played host to a seated crowd of fans and friends to hear Stevie and his band play through a set of songs, old and new. By no means a spacious venue, No Alibis ensured it was to be an intimate show between the confines of book shelf after book shelf.
The soft and gentle folk of ‘Watch the Rain’, sees Scullion’s guitar and voice joined by the rest of his band which consisted of Joe McGurgan on double bass, Una McCann on keyboard and Mojo Fury’s Michael Mormecha on percussion. The band soon fall in alongside Scullion, all providing vocals to the track from debut album ‘The Deer’s Cry’.
From here on out the band deliver song after song of Scullion’s brand of folk. While Malojian certainly isn’t veering from one genre to the next, there’s plenty of variation in Scullion’s music. The softer efforts are carried along by Scullion’s gently picked or strummed acoustic guitar, often backed by vocals from the rest of the band. On a number of tracks, Mormecha swaps his drums for guitar, including on ‘Do You Believe?’ which even features an electric solo. Meanwhile McCann’s range of sounds include piano, Hammond-esque keyboard and an accordion which all blossom behind Scullion’s guitar while McGurgan on double bass often finds himself as Scullion’s vocal foil.
There are plenty of great moments throughout Malojian’s extensive set. Despite the claim that many journalists focus on it, it would be remiss of me not to mention the absurdity of ‘Mario’. The song, harking back to a simpler childhood morphs into the sound of a folk band, accordion in tow, jumping into the Mario theme. It backs a running theme throughout the set, the laid back and playful atmosphere of the show. The odd slip-up, such as a forgivable one at the intricate beginning of the fully blown ‘Shame On Me’, are laughed off with the audience. Mormecha’s drum fills are teased alongside the rest of the band, with the drums sounding almost toy-like as the song slips into laughter. There’s a real joyful feel to the evening.
Another highlight the rendition of the simply wonderful ‘Communion Girls’ from the new album. The often emotional but gentle folk scattered through the performance is contrasted by tracks like this. Songs such as ‘Crease of Your Smile’, delivered by Scullion during an introspective, unaccompanied section of the show following an interval, showcase Scullion’s more thoughtful lyrics. ‘Let me belong, to the crease of your smile’ is a beautiful little lyric. But Scullion can also go unconventional, with ‘Communion Girls’ one such example. It is a jaunty, happy, little song with an unusual subject matter of stopping a paramilitary and impressing the girls in communion. It’s a real treat.
The unusual lyrics can also be found on ‘Bathtub Blues’, with the rather more everyday topic of scrubbing up in a bathtub. With it’s foot-tapping rhythm, catchy whistling and various changes, it’s more than a little reminiscent of The Beatles, a band that clearly lies close to Scullion’s heart. Encores may not be “what they used to be” as the band don’t even leave the small stage or leave us in anticipation of a final two tracks. Tonight’s conclusion sees The Beatles’ influence fully realised as we’re treated to a great rendition of the iconic ‘A Day in the Life’.
All in all it is a wonderful night of music in the confines of No Alibis. The atmosphere throughout is so laid back and so playful throughout. Certainly hosting the launch shows in such a unique and intimate venue, supported fully by the store’s owner, means a lot. The character of the venue and the artist combined for a very enjoyable show.