Mark Mulcahy strummed his guitar on the stage of Lyric Hall on Thursday, midway through a string of older songs after performing his new album, The Possum in the Driveway, in its entirety.
“What else?” he asked the band around him. Someone in the audience shouted a request.
“Not that what else,” he said. “Don’t yell out songs” he said, in a soft and kindly manner, “because the band might not know them and then they’ll feel bad…. If you went to someone’s house and they offered you apple pie, you wouldn’t yell out ‘cherry pie’, would you?”
The audience laughed. On a warm night, Mark Mulcahy (of Miracle Legion and Polaris) offered the capacity crowd all kind of delights as he played the second of three shows supporting The Possum in the Driveway, the first being the night before in Northampton, Mass., and a third scheduled for June 27 at Joe’s Pub in New York. The atmosphere was intense as concertgoers steadily filled Lyric Hall and excitedly talked about seeing their musical hero, who had come up through the music ranks in the Elm City in the early 1980s and released Possum, his first album in four years and over a decade in the making this April 22 — Record Store Day — to widespread acclaim.
The New Haven-based Paul Belbusti (of Mercy Choir) had opened the show with a solo set of ten songs from his own rich and varied catalog, starting with three songs from his last two albums, both released in less than a year — “13th of July” and “Last Night,” both off his May 2017 release Fair Games, and “Universal Wannabe” from the November 2016 release Like a Fountain Stirred, all three more than capably displaying his lyrical prowess and hinting at his debt to songwriters such as Mulcahy. Closing with “Untitled Birdwatcher,” which conveyed an almost spiritual reverence for its subjects, Belbusti had aptly warmed up the room for the rest of the proceedings.
Mulcahy presented Possum from start to finish with a full band consisting of John Panos on trumpet and percussion, Ken Maiuri on drums, keyboards, and vocals, Peyton Pinkerton on guitar, David Trenholm on guitar, flute, saxophone, clarinet, and vocals, Marc Seedorf on bass, Dennis Crommett on acoustic guitar, and Scott Amore — who also produced Possum — on keyboard and effects. Opening with the stunningly lush and emotionally raw “Stuck on Something Else,” the band held back except for Maiuri’s keyboards complimenting Mulcahy’s yearning vocals. Kicking in with the next number, “30 Days Away,” the band met and responded to each other and Mulcahy easily without ever taking away from his lyrical scope and depth.
Mulcahy also built upon each performance of each song with his own passion and intensity, coming right to the edge of the stage for “The Fiddler” to knock the clamshell covers off of the stage lights as he reached out to the audience with this deep and bluesy tune. The potency, both vocally and physically, of the performances built as the show went on, but Mulcahy and the band never let it override the beauty of both the words and the music. Once Possum was completed, the band members left the stage and Mulcahy played one song alone with his guitar. He then kept playing another seven songs as more band members rejoined him on stage for each song, ending with the entire band back up there and Mulcahy back to vocals only for the final two numbers. He ended with “I Have Patience,” his energy level still high as he came to the front of the stage and swung around a water jug as he sang. The night’s performance garnered him and the band a rousing final round of applause, loud cheers, and a standing ovation.
“I appreciate you coming,” Mulcahy said. “Be good to your neighbors.”