Live Review: Malojian @ The Set Theatre, Kilkenny 9 December 2017

The Set Theatre in Kilkenny is one of Ireland’s most beautiful live venues, and tonight it is as close to capacity as I have ever seen. Malojian, AKA Co Armagh, native Stevie Scullion is the main attraction and although his latest release ‘Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home’ is one of the finest, Irish records this year, you can’t but help thinking there is another reason for the packed house during the height of office party season.

Malojian’s popularity in Kilkenny is due, in no small part, to the late, great Willie Meighan of Rollercoaster Records fame. Meighan, who sadly passed away on the 28th of last month, had for a long time championed Majojian and even released some of the more recent albums on the his Rollercoaster Label.

The vast majority of the crowd had assembled long before the opening act took to the stage. The sense of collective grief was palpable and it felt as If I was at the afters of a funeral as tears are wiped from cheeks and sympathies are shared.

As for the music, opening act Arborist AKA Mark McCambridge, was excellent. Eyebrows were raised when Arborist announced he was opening with a “seasonal tune” but fears were eased when it turned out to be a cover of John Prine’s “Christmas In Prison” and not something more festive. Armed with only an electric guitar and a great sense of self-deprecating humour McCambridge impressed from the get go, as did, his well-crafted, indie/folk songs. He joked about efforts to write a radio-friendly hit being thwarted by his own inability to write one short enough to warrant airplay, before singing what he described as the “short version” of the 6 minute plus ‘Man Of My Age’ which turned out to be the highlight of this impressive set.

Malojian’s set was equally impressive, but often tinged with sadness as Scullion spoke, passionately about his, late friend. I can’t help but think the set was altered to suit the occasion too, as very little of the songs from the excellent ‘Let Your Weirdness Carry You Home’ appeared. Covers of Nilsson’s ‘Everybody’s Talkin’, Young’s ‘I’m So Down Today’ and in particular, Dylan’s ‘He Was A Friend Of Mine’ all paid tribute to the man who meant, so much to, so many in the crowd.  Of his own material ‘Crease Of Your Smile’, ‘Communion Girls’ and ‘Ambulance Song’ were highlights. A stand out moment for me was when Scullion lightened the mood, expertly, by blaming mid-song gremlins on Meighan before going into ‘Beard Song’.

A tight knit community has grown both on and off-line around Rollercoaster Records and one would hope that the important work of Willie Meighan will be carried on in his absence.

Words by Anthony Kelly

Photo by Colm Laverty