The first time I saw a show at Le Poisson Rouge, the room was filled with tables, chairs and booths. This time, the middle of the room was empty. I'm sure the large rubberize mat that serves as a dance floor was there the last time but I didn't give it much thought. I think the emptied room sparked a feeling of déjà vu because I wondered if the room was part of the Old Village Gate. I referenced a few websites, before I wrote this posting, and found out I was correct. Therefore, without realizing it, I was seeing Sean Hayes in the same room I saw Nina Simone in many years before. The Village Gate was a jazz club that was on Bleeker Street until the end of the 1993. There was a patio/lounge which used to have a jazz trio at street level. Hidden away were two large performance spaces which were accessed through doors on either side of the bar.
Warren Malone walked on stage around 10:30 without any fanfare. Malone introduced himself but before introducing his first song he said “I have a guitar and a piece of paper – that's all I have.” I thought it was strange statement to make but more was revealed as set moved along.
Malone is originally from Manchester but now lives in NYC and his songs reflect how he has been influenced by both places. The first song “C Train.” basically seemed to be about a day of his life in NYC. As Malone strummed along and sang his simple but memorably melodic lyric, his vibrato reminded me of Antony and the Johnsons.
Malone vocals are powerful, though at times his melodies seemed more like laments which can be often found in folk music. For his second song, Malone did an a cappella version of an Irish folk song which has been covered by everyone from Odetta to Van Morrison to Sinead O'Connor. It was an odd choice for a second song but it kept the audiences attention which Malone manages to do well.
Before doing his third song, Malone read his bio off the earlier mentioned piece of paper. His bio is a funny list of basic personal facts. The same bio can also be found on his MYSPACE page. I thought the bit was really clever. It made the audience laugh but more importantly gave the audience a glimpse of Warren Malone's personality. When a artist gives a little bit of themselves personally, it always makes me listen a little closer. Malone followed his bio with another list of shoulda-woulda-coulda's in the song “Who Knows, “ which had an uptempo bluegrass feel.
My favorite song in Warren Malone's set was “Mama's Yard.” Before doing it he said “We did Ireland ,now we're gonna do England.”He used a blues riff as the hook at the end of every chorus and contrasting melody on the B section.
Malone ended with “Drinking of the Wine.” The title sounds religious but lyric is definitely not. I enjoyed Malone's set and really appreciated that he put some thought into mixing it up and keeping it interesting.
Sean Hayes and his band opened up his set with “Onion,” which is very laid back on the recorded version but had more punch in concert. The song, with it's 6/8 meter, felt like a prologue to long set that showcased the richness of Hayes' songwriting. I have to admit straight off that I didn't get how strong Hayes' music is until I heard the bulk of his material in concert. As I watched the band from the back of the room it occurred to me the Sean Hayes music grew on me more and more as the night progressed.
Hayes' second song was from his CD of the same name “Flowering Spade.” The song had a shuffling country feel but when Hayes did the vocal adlib at the end, it felt more R&B as does a vast amount of Hayes music. The next song “Garden” is a prime example, it has funky mid-tempo feel with a lyric that is somewhat folk.
Before doing the funky upbeat “One Day The River,” Sean Hayes said “This next song was inspired by the street outside my window in San Francisco.” I noted that Hayes did not do a lot of talking during the show. The only other thing I recall him saying was about how his guitar was a new old guitar. And while I'm on the subject, Hayes was playing a f-hole small body Gibson guitar. I think the guitar is from the 30's but don't quote me cause I'm not sure.
There were two reggae songs in the set that were my favorite “Honeybee's Falling”and “Turnaroundturnmeon.” Hayes has quite a few reggae songs that he does quite well. I kept hoping through the show that he would do “Dolores Guerrero.” Perhaps I should have screamed out the title. Apparently someone in front of the stage asked for the song “Angel,” and Hayes said “we can do a version of Angel.” Apparently the band never rehearsed the song together but Hayes did one chorus by himself and band then joined in. It was pretty good for something that wasn't rehearsed.
For the song “Me & My Girl,” Lead guitarist Sean Hayes put down his guitar and played the snare beside drummer Ezra Lipp while Bass player, Seth Ford-Young played shakers. At that point Sean Hayes was the the only one left with a guitar in his hand. Needles to say the song was really percussive. There was bass line coming from somewhere which I think was probably prerecorded and/or looped.
Many of the songs I just mentioned remind me of the late Robert Palmer. I hear the same mixture of blues, R&B and reggae in Hayes' music as I did in Robert Palmer's early music (Which means I'm not talkin' Power Station). The difference is that I find Hayes' music lighter and not as weighted down with heavy instrumentation. Hayes also is influenced by the traditional American music which, one doesn't have to read his bio to get. It only takes a listen to songs like “Politics” or “Rosebush Inside.”
Even though Sean Hayes didn't leave the stage afterward, he ended his set with “When We Fall In,” which had a very 50's feel and a 12/8 meter. The audience joined in with the echo response to the lyric and a few people were dancing in place, Throughout the set there were a few couples dancing around the edges of the dance floor. After the song Hayes said "this is when we leave the stage but we don't feel like it” (translation: they didn't feel like doing the obligatory encore pretense). So they stayed and did three more songs which included a Talking Heads cover. The grand finale of sorts had the guitarist and bassist, playing percussion again, ending the song "Rattlesnake Charm" with just drums.
When I walked out of Le Poisson Rouge, I left feeling really satisfied that I heard an evenings worth of good music. Nothin' flashy – just a lot of good music worth hearing again. Obviously, the bunch of people gathered around the merch table felt the same way.
Sean Hayes - Guitar
Bass - Seth Ford-Young
Guitar - Eric Kuhn
Drums - Ezra Lipp
Guitar - Eric Kuhn
Drums - Ezra Lipp
Sean Hayes set list
2. Flowering Spade
4. One Day The River
5. Honeybee's Falling
6. Powerfull Stuff
7. So Down
10.Me and My Girl
11.Shake Your Body
13.Fucked Me Right Up
14.Balancing Act In Blue
16.When We Fall In
17. Baby I Do
18.This Must be the Place (Naive Melody) – Talking Heads Cover
19. Rattlesnake Charm
Warren Malone set list
1. C Train
2. She Moved Through The Fair
3. Who Knows
4. Sally Anne
5. My Mama's Yard
6. Drinking Of The Wine