Vigilantes of Love: one of America's great unsung bands
The Glass House, Pomona, Cal., Jan. 12, 2001
POMONA, CA - "Sorry we didn't play any of the old stuff," Bill Mallonee apologized, before sending a small, but loyal audience out into the cold night air. "But that was another band."
Indeed, now down to just a trio, Vigilantes of Love has been reduced to Mallonee and whomever he chooses to take on the road with him. No matter, though, since VoL has always been Mallonee's forum for gut wrenchingly poetic personal statements.
But even if you're a fan of the "new" Vigilantes, this was not a night set aside for many recognizable favorites. The band performed six numbers from its recent "Audible Sigh" release, but everything else was either unreleased, a cover or a rarity.
A couple of these "Sigh" recordings took on added meaning live, since both "Now as the Train Pulls Away" and "Nothing Like a Train" are both specifically about what it's like to be on the road - especially when you must leave your family at home whenever hitting the trail.
Many of Mallonee's lesser known compositions sure made you wish you could hear them on disc, though. Especially the tale about a Vietnam vet, called "Get In, Get Out," and "Northern Soul," which documents VoL's recent tour experiences in the U.K.
Between songs, Mallonee gave the appearance of a man whose mouth works too slowly to keep up with his mind, as he rattled off song introductions like a 60- words-per-minute typist. He was also a visually engaging performer, and oftentimes used the index finger on his strumming hand to drive home significant song lines or banged his head - á la that "I could have had a V8" commercial - to highlight his words.
Mallonee never picked up the Rickenbacker guitar behind him (even for his faithful cover of "My Back Pages"), but instead relied upon an amplified acoustic to support his Southern flavored folk-rock musings.
This may have indeed been another band, but Bill Mallonee once again proved from the stage what a consistently amazing songwriter he is, which makes VoL (in whatever form it takes) one of America's great unsung bands.