One Eyed Jacks
June 17, 2005
Nearly 300 people crowded into One Eyed Jacks Friday night to hear James Hall's last solo show for a while. He's planning on writing new songs so he can hit the studio and make an album.
Hall and his band played tracks from each solo album and Pleasure Club record. From "My Love, Sex, and Spirit" came "Silver Tongues" and So Precious," which guitarist Chris Piskun said was one of his top ten favorite songs of all time. 1996's "Pleasure Club" was home to "Honky Time" and "Heatwave Radio," an unmercifully rampaging rocker. Hall performed "Permanent Solution," "One Hand Washes The Other" and "High Stepping" from the first Pleasure Club album. The song's "oooohhhhooo" chant was a highlight of the night. And then, Hall chose two unlikely song from 2004's "Fugitive Kind" to open and close the show. The sauntering "Revolution in Red" started things off at a gallop. Before Hall began the closer "You Want Love," he said that the song could work if the band and audience pulled together "as a team." It did work because the audience was reverent. The lights went low, the disco ball was spinning, and there was Hall lecturing in a pessimistic tone about love. The song came off as romantic because Hall approached it with tenderness. I saw a couple snuggling in the middle of it. "Deadbeat Brother" and "Begin Again" were two new songs that Hall also played. "Brother" featured guilty vignette storytelling and the masterful drum machine drumming of Michael Jerome. "Begin Again" showed how friggin' haunting Hall's voice could be when he stretched it. There was one more that I didn't recognize. That was Bauhaus' "In The Night."
Hall hit the stage with bassist Jarrett Bury, Big Blue Marble lap steel guitarist Michael Blum, and Jerome and Piskun. Pleasure Club would've done better if they had Blum in the lineup. His playing was rock-oriented and suited the music well. Without Blum the band would have been a demo tape. With Blum they were a record with color and hi-hat sixteenth notes that sounded crisp.
During the first few songs, Hall gave more smiles to the crowd than usual. He had his sunken cheek, back-of-the-room stare going on, but he broke character once or twice. When the band got to the more rockin' songs, that didn't happen again. He became the performer and was adrenalized. He screamed and threw his arms around in a fit. At the same time Bury was wheeling around in circles with his bass and jumping up and down. Piskun also threw in a few jumps, but he mostly gave the audience a cool stare down. The two were a welcome addition to Hall's band because they were much more energetic than Pleasure Club bassist Grant Curry or guitarist Marc Hunter.
The only problem I had with the show was that it was short. Leave them wanting more? Screw that. Leave them exhausted. Hall should have played for fifteen more minutes. The audience reaction to Hall was tepid at first, but they got into it once the rockin' songs came around. Still, they never went apes---. Probably because they didn't know what to expect. Now those of us who had never seen a James Hall solo performance know what to expect from him--great rock n' roll.