To say that Mark Mallman has moxie is an understatement. For over 20 years he has been a constant fixture in the Twin Cities, continuing to teeter with stardom due to his bottomless energy, 70’s piano-rock glam, and innovative stunts. Mallman’s unmistakable sense of style show both in the depth of his songwriting and in his courage as an author.
The Turf Club has a long history with Mallman, as seen in his decade in review. Last night gave us another taste of his distinctive shows. Below are five trademarks of a Mark Mallman experience.
Walking onstage to his duct-taped instrument, Mark Mallman carries an aura with him. His stage antics include stepping up onto his keyboard, pounding on the keys with his foot, and the frantic tickling of the ivories. Much like a professional athlete, Mallman’s tongue also always makes an appearance when concentrating on his parts. That commitment to entertainment and energy captivates people, who, having seen it before, still don’t know quite what’s going to happen.
The second song into the set, “Minneapolis,” is the perfect example of his grandiose presence. As his keyboard was being troubleshooted, Mallman kept the show going by climbing up and down the keyboard, leading the audience by engaging them directly. “Monster Movies” had the back half of the Turf Club dancing and jumping around. His encore of the Violent Femmes “Add It Up” was an extended jam that culminated with Mallman picking up his keyboard and holding it over his head with one arm.
Mark has released 12 full-length albums, one live album, 4 EPs, and plenty of other compilations. One trademark that has tied his career together is his 70’s piano-rock sound and memorable pop craftsmanship. He’s perfected his sound and style, continually driving home his music. That consistency and dedication has netted some catchy songs like “The End Is Not The End” and “Knockout On 22nd Street,” which both had the crowd singing along and identifying with the trademark Mallman sound.
“True Love” is the perfect blend of pop, ballad, gritty lyrics, and Mallman’s minimalist-yet-poignant piano playing. He built the song up, bringing the crowd along with him into a final swell of applause, showing how much his sound connects to the people.
Mark Mallman dresses in bold, retro-rock gear, often with tight pants, boots, and cut-off sleeves. Fully studded with silver, Mallman is more than just his attire. His facial expressions, smirks, yells, and outbursts all pull the audience into his set. During “Knockout On 22nd Street,” Mark pulled off his belt and had the bass player bend over while he whipped him with the belt. All of these things define stage presence, which he has expertly perfected.
He’s also has a great feel for directing his band. Calling out solos, extending a song, or even propping a cymbal on his head for the drummer to play on are just some of the audibles he calls. Watching him pivot around the stage and engage each of his bandmates is entertaining, as you just don’t know what to expect next.
Let me preface this by saying that not all Mark Mallman songs are lyrically deep. At times, the lyrics seem silly and provide a gentle inward dig at themselves.
But there are songs that can be deeply sincere and lyrically powerful. His album The End is Not The End features many weighty themes, including life after death. You can hear the depression and anxiety in those songs, especially when you know that he was dealing with his mother’s death when he was writing them.
His book, The Happiness Playlist, builds on his trademark ability to address emotional issues in his music. His performance of “Baby Takes It Slow” was a shining example of this last night. Check out the lyrics:
I make no matter or fuss in the darkness
But I know that day will come
The river is swift, the bank is steep
The current is quick and the water is deep
Innovation in the Music Community
We’re all aware of Mallman’s continually advanced ideas of how music can be performed. His innovations include his historic marathon shows, using a telepresence robot to perform from miles away, and using EEG brain waves in his performances. Everyone has a Mark Mallman story. These contributions to our music community progress music and push others to think outside the box.
Mallman’s part in our Minneapolis history is scattered with hundreds of shows, large stage opportunities, and earned respect from others. Earlier in the night, Lunch Duchess shared that it was Mark Mallman that gave them their first opportunity as a band to open for him on that Turf Club stage. It’s that community spirit and heart that will continually innovate our city.