James Hall

The Mermaid Lounge

October 01, 2004

James Hall is the city’s rock star emeritus. I see Cowboy Mouth’s Fred LeBlanc, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, and Better Than Ezra’s Kevin Griffin around town, so they’re out. A rock star adds mystery to their persona with their lack of presence. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hall is a vampire without a home. Also, Hall looks like a rock star in his big-collared shirts, pleated pants, and leather shoes. Pirner has his Vietnam vet army wear look going, but a classic rock star(Prince) should look like a pimp. Hall wins again. Finally, the true rock star should seem a little weird and unapproachable. I’ve seen the other three guys smile more than once, so they’re out. Pirner actually let his nice guy personality come out Friday night at The Mermaid Lounge when he complimented another musician. That’s a big no-no, Dave. Other so-called “musicians” are slugs there for your amusement. Let them know that. Hall seems to be protected by the people around him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he kidnapped me and traded me in Mexico for some special kind of heroin. That’s rock n’ roll.

Hall kept his rock star persona going Friday night at The Mermaid Lounge. He said something only when prompted, and he showed little emotion as he displayed a continuous disenchanted glare. That was fine. I didn’t want any fake buddy/buddy audience/performer pandering from him. I just wanted his voice and his songs. He delivered tenfold. Hall was joined by Michael Blum, who added sadness, energy, and texture to Hall’s sparse guitar playing with his lap steel. Blum was the wonderful wild card.

Hall played two Pleasure Club songs I recognized—“One Hand Washes the Other” and “You Want Love.” Every song was enjoyable and filling, but the two I knew displayed the two best things about Hall: his voice and his lyrics. On “Hand,” his voice was like a tractor beam. It was very hard to ignore(why would you want to?), and I saw a few people up front who looked entranced by it. On “Love,” his detached nature worked to the song’s advantage. His exhausted vocal delivery fit the hopeless lyrics perfectly(“You want love/You don’t know what it is/All you know is that you need someone/And then they take you home”).

I want to thank the guy who broke the cool rock star tension. Hall said nothing as he went from song to song until a man in dead silence yelled, “Thank you, James Hall!” Hall seemed flabbergasted and said “thank you” back. Then, he thanked everyone who was gonna support the Pleasure Club at Voodoo on October 16th. You gotta promote.

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