By Brian Tucker
(originally published in Performer magazine)
December 8, 2007 – The Soapbox – Wilmington, NC
Paleface stepped onstage casually as if only checking things out, wearing a dark blue Sunday-best suit, white shirt and a shiny, light blue tie. Within seconds, and without announcement, he slipped on his acoustic guitar and began playing. A crowd waited below the stage sitting on chairs and sofas, bathed in red light. Conversations dissipated once they realized Paleface was playing, albeit very softly. Their focus remained on Paleface and Monica Samalot (drums and vocals) for the remainder of the set.
Paleface’s performance was solid, easily winning over the crowd, even though the duo was feeling things out as a two-piece. Confident yet anxious, Paleface turned to a stool between songs to switch out harmonicas. He was lightheartedly nervous but throughout the set delivered songs like an old soul.
“Words of wisdom,” someone yells from the floor as Paleface closes “Kick this Jam.”
“That’s what happens when you get kicked around a lot,” Paleface said. “You pick up a few nuggets.” He explained the song was an outtake that wound up on the new Paleface album A Different Story.
“Little by Little” was a highlight of the night, a bouncing ditty that embraced everyone, making the band seem half their age. The performance escalated with each song, his energy level going up little by little. He bounced more, jumped more – oozed soul with kindness. He looked like a young John Fogerty, sharing that high pitch on some songs and grounded in a graveled, soulful vocal delivery on others.
Playing acoustic guitar and harmonica, the singer swung his head feverishly right to left, as if exorcising demons. At times songs were overly energetic, like folk played like punk rock. Paleface’s deep and plaintive voice on “Brooklyn Girl” was abrasive and moving, accompanied by finger picking on the guitar. He stood far from the microphone and his voice still rose high above the crowd. It seemed larger, echoing throughout the room with Mo’s soft, cooing, harmonies in the background. And the set still held a few surprises.
“This is the first song I ever wrote and it’s totally ridiculous,” Paleface explained. It was a spoken word rant, a string of words seemingly unrelated but entertaining. He gripped the microphone like a preacher/rapper, kneeling at the edge of the stage completely alive in the moment. The set closed with “Burn and Rob,” a dark humored song goofing on the Judas Priest controversy of the mid eighties.
“I wasn’t going to play it because I didn’t want to offend anyone,” Paleface said. “But this guy kept asking.”
He sang the third chorus with growling delivery, “Burn and rob, Burn and rob, Rock and roll made me not believe in God.”