ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, LONDON
FRIDAY MARCH 21, 2003
If geeks had their own political party, they'd probably be able to organise their conferences around the same time and place as the next Sparks gig, thus ensuring a 100 per cent attendance. That's how London's Festival Hall feels tonight, anyway. Sparks fans make your average Trekkie look like Elvis—that's young Elvis, of course: although even old, fat, shit Elvis wouldn't look so bad beside a myopic thirty something in a lurid "Lights Out Ibiza" T-shirt.
What it means to be in a rock band, or have a career, seems to have melted and fused into something older and freer for Jon Langford. The Welsh leader of original Leeds punks The Mekons lives in Chicago these days, and plays with The Waco Brothers, The Sadies and The Pine Valley Cosmonauts too.
One of the oddest gigs I've seen in a long time. The weathered Leven sings mournful songs of loss and regret in a rich, soulful voice. He's a big poetry man, quoting Pablo Neruda on his new album Shining Brother Shining Sister. Yet, more often than he's being a melancholic, working-class minstrel, he's being a man of the people in an entirely different manner. For at least half his time onstage, he tells bawdy shaggy dog stories.
THE BORDERLINE, LONDON
TUESDAY JANUARY 21 2003
"Just wait til see you me with my fuckin' band, man," Jesse Malin had said backstage at the Royal Festival Hall, after opening solo and acoustic for Ryan Adams last November. And he wasn't kidding.
He's flanked by two razor-sharp dudes who look like they walked out of a remake of West Side Story, but turn out to be bassist Johnny Pisano and guitarist Johnny Rocket. It may just be a trick of the light, but keyboardist Joe McGinty is sporting what looks suspiciously like a black eye.