Review: Papa M – Workman’s Club – 27/5/2012
Review: Justin McDaid
Dave Pajo is certainly one of the more respected musicians around, having served his time in one of the most influential bands of recent times in the form of Slint. That band’s peerless ‘Spiderland’ album was a key work, shaping a generation of guitarists and groups. His career as a journeyman has taken him through tenures with Royal Trux, Zwan, Interpol and Will Oldham to name a few, as well as various solo incarnations as P A J O, Aerial M and tonight’s guise, Papa M. A meagre crowd inhabits the dance-floor of The Workman’s main room for opening act, synth and guitar duo Great Lakes Mystery, with the majority lining the seats along the walls. It’s a hushed set, well-received by those that are present and really, there is no need to thank us for our patience.
Most retire to the bar as we wait for the main act, with a surge of people toward the door of the main room as the first notes of Arundel spill from Pajo’s guitar. The crowd has by now swelled to near capacity as Pajo, seated on a stool begins a set made up of predominantly ‘Live From A Shark Cage’ material with a few pleasant surprises thrown in along the way. The fantastic sound in the venue is commendable, and those notes ring out crystal clear as an appreciative crowd listen to this understated guitarist – the simple pleasure of watching a man who is good at what he does…do what he does. The bassist doesn’t open his eyes for the first few numbers while Pajo rarely looks up from his guitar neck all night, save to switch between Telecaster and Stratocaster or mutter the odd ‘thanks’.
At one point during High Lonesome Moan from the eponymous P A J O album someone has the audacity to cough – the nerve! – but they were soon shushed out of it by the watchdogs. Another track from that album follows, a lovely Ten More Days; the singing gradually becomes clearer as the gig progresses, from barely audible sympathetic embellishments atop the guitar work, as in Drunken Spree, to the more lyrically-oriented material. There is scarcely a sound in the room during the numbers, as reverential a gig as you will witness but more to do with the crowd being completely captivated and absorbed by the effortless fret-work and chord changes than anything else.
A cover of The Misfit’s Where Eagles Dare is a fine moment, as is a wonderful take on Leonard Cohen’s Lullaby. The ‘Live From A Shark Cage’ instrumental material shines though – a shimmering Roadrunner particularly, and we come full circle with the closing reprise of Arundel, as on the record. There is no encore, and no complaints; this is a rewarding and relaxed gig in a venue that does the material justice, with a warm and responsive crowd. No light show; no merchandise; no frills – just a focus on the players and the music.