Thursday, July 20, 2000
IN THE MOOD FOR A MELODY
Little Jack Melody’s latest album is titled Noise and Smoke, and that phrase aptly described his Wednesday night show at Mohawk Place. It wasn’t the thunderous din and purple haze of a rock show, but rather the velvet noise and cigarette smoke of a cabaret lounge act.
Melody mixed up a strange brew of cha-cha, tango, and bossa nova, served with a dash of burlesque and a lot of crushed black humor.
With his Young Turks - a killer backing band of jazz-rooted musicians – and a group of songs reveling in everything from sexual dependency ("The Ballad of the Ladies’ Man") to Frank Sinatra as God ("Happily Ever After"), he led the audience through two sets of truly inspired entertainment.
Between songs, Melody addressed the crowd in a low intimate tone, telling stories, fielding questions, and occasionally hawking products.
"We have T-shirts for sale," Melody said, while strapping on a banjo for the deranged instrumental "Bela Lugosi…the missing years." "Brand new design. We don’t have a spokesmodel yet. Elle MacPherson has expressed some interest. Heidi Klum said she would wear one, if there weren’t anything else. Michael Stipe has flat-out refused."
"Bela Lugosi" segued seamlessly into "J’ai Faim, Toujours." Melody’s banjo playing pranced gingerly around Jeff Fort’s sexy clarinet, while Jeff Novack’s fingers flew across his widemouth bass.
The first set ended with a supremely suave version of Slade’s "Cum On Feel the Noize." Melody wildly flashed the Sicilian devil sign while encouraging the girls to rock their boys.
While hearing lounge-style Slade may be disconcerting to some folks, Melody’s avant-garde experimentations don’t seem so strange when one considers that he comes from Texas, home to a wide range of bizarre musicians.
After a short break, Melody and the Turks, which also featured the extremely tight playing of keyboardist Brad Williams and drummer Max Oepen, came back with a carnival-inspired take on Lieber and Stoller’s "Is That All There Is?"
The second set was mostly fueled by audience requests, who shouted out their favorite Little Jack tunes, while Melody gamely fulfilled their choices.
The group closed with a rocking version of Petula Clark’s "I Know A Place," before the audience pushed Melody to play "Happily Ever After" as an encore.
The show reaffirmed the notion that the best performances take place when the audience and musicians interact and that the best music is still underground. Long may Little Jack Melody’s freak flag fly.
- Donia Clark, News Contributing Reviewer