Open House Festival brought the superbly talented Stevie Scullion – aka Malojian – to Studio 1A for what turned out to be not just a night of great music but also storytelling and humour.
Studio 1A is an intimate venue, set within a former old Orange Hall in Bangor and is set up beautifully to host this type of gig.
Opening the show tonight is a relative newcomer to the Northern Ireland music scene Kevin Young who amazingly only picked up the guitar for the first time four years ago but now stands on stage like he has been doing it for ever.
He tells us he is good at talking and is a little nervous, well, for the first ten seconds until he strums that first chord and then he looks right at home. His songs are always thought provoking and all about the memories, evident in Can I Hold You Now.
He catches a glimpse of someone in the crowd he knows as he plays and it makes him laugh. A little rasp hides in his voice and it works fantastically well, especially when he is joined onstage by his wife Sharon Morgan Young. The harmonies in I Love Only You are beautiful.
Bruce Springsteen’s I’m On Fire gets a run out but with a slightly more edgy country feel and the audience are encouraged to join in which they do.
I suspect this will not be the last we hear of Kevin Young and there is no mistaking the aroma of talented American singer Elliot Smith in his songwriting.
Stevie Scullion steps out onto the stage and gives a simple “How’s it going folks? He is dressed all in black and the Malojian of today is a simple but effective set up of guitar, piano, cello and violin.
The show opens with Whittle Me Down and the strings added make it beautiful and already he has grabbed the full attention of the audience.
He makes reference to the fact the studio is an old orange hall and makes light of this fact against the backdrop of being a Catholic brought up in Lurgan. Communion Girls tells a story about how as a young boy growing up he always feared an attack on the Chapel while at Mass from the Paramilitaries. The serious part of the story is offset against mention a more humorous notions of Bruce Lee backflips and eyeing up the girls from school going up to receive communion.
Reaching into his pocket, he swears by Fisherman’s Friends and holds out the packet tentatively offering them to the audience.
He tells the story of how songs change their meaning at times. The Old Timer, written before the death of Rollercoaster Records owner Willie Meighan, now reminds him so much of the man who gave so much support throughout his music career.
Stevie Scullion’s storytelling is slow and methodical but it is captivating and draws you in with that tinge of humour which always accompanies his anecdotes. He talked of recording in the lighthouse off Rathlin Island and how exciting it was. And also how noisy the lighthouse was, meaning a lot of the recordings were hard to use.
Ambulance Song from Malojian’s latest album Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home has a slowed down psychedelic 60’s vibe of The Beatles Norweigan Wood, which is no surprise giving his love of The Fab Four.
He has the audience laughing again at the story of inadvertently drinking petrol from a milk bottle, the story shall remain with the four walls of the 1A Studio and how his kids asked him to write a new song about them being in the bath and so was born Bath Tub Blues. In a nutshell it is what may be called a little ditty!
Crease Of Your Smile is dedicated to a good friend of his who sadly passed away and What Am I Worth is a beautiful song about the life of a songwriter.
Malojian has matured as a songwriter and performer over the four albums he has released. He has worked with some of the biggest names in music while making these including Steve Albini, who has worked with Pixies and Nirvana, and Joey Waronker with credits including Beck, R.E.M and Roger Waters. It is no wonder Malojian’s records are so good.
He recalls playing to two bar men in The Green Room at The Black Box in Belfast but suspect it is put down to a learning experience that maybe every musicians has to suffer at some point.
Watch The Rain is somewhat dark but intriguing and he sits at the piano to play Hanging On The Glow accompanied by the very talented Laura McFadden on cello and Vicky Schmidt on violin. This move to a string accompaniment works perfectly.
The announcement of the last song brings a groan from this audience. Commenting that one of his favourite singers Gruff Rhys, from Super Furry Animals, rejects the idea of phoney encores he promises he will adopt the same mantra.
There is an offer of a Fisherman’s Friend to the audience for a final time and he finishes the evening with He Was A Friend Of Mine. It’s stunning, poignant and a perfect finish to the night. It’s given to anyone who has ever lost a loved one.
The latest guise of Malojian with a string accompaniment is proof of how an artist matures over time but can still produce thoughtful and wonderful songs. We await the next chapter of Malojian with bated breath.