Jesse Malin
@ Leeds Faversham

The last time Jesse Malin visited Leeds in 2005, he turned in such a spellbinding show that a graduation to more spacious surroundings wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. True, new album, ‘Glitter In The Gutter’, may be a disappointing stab at commerciality that sees Jesse playing up to the ‘Springsteen Mini-Me’ tag, but it’s mightily frustrating to see this charismatic performer still playing the pubs when he deserves so much more.

Still, it’s great to have the New York City boy back in town, as a low-key ‘Riding On The Subway’ kicks off 90 minutes of urban hymns and rock n’ roll sermons. New songs including ‘Black Haired Girl’ and ‘Lucinda’ sound punchier than their studio counterparts suggesting that Jesse should have recorded the new album live, whilst ‘Broken Radio’ is dedicated to radio legend, ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris. The guitarist is studied in cool. No posing for him, he looks into the monitor, listening and pulling notes. It decorates Jesse’s acoustic strum beautifully. It’s fundamentally an acoustic sound with electric solos layered on top. The bass rocks back on his heels, pelvis-mounted instrument pushing towards the guitar. Keyboards are central to the depth of sound but tucked back so few see them. Malin dominates the stage with personality that belies his diminutive frame.

Regular attendees at Malin gigs could argue that the anecdotes are the high point of Jesse’s stage act. He tells of a girl in Leeds train station who asked him if he was a musician, to which he replied he was a gynaecologist (!), and recalls how his father berated him for wanting to make it as a musician when growing up. Jesse is prone to meaningless rambling, occasional arrogance and rarely takes a breather between sentences, but is nothing less than entertaining. He remarks on all the rain over here, “it’s like Travis Bickle meets Hitchcock…..”. He goes on to tell us about his proud moment opening at Madison Gardens for Kiss and his Dad still not ‘getting it’.

The acoustic interval brings back memories of that unforgettable Joseph’s Well gig, as he interrupts the brilliant ‘Solitaire’ to pay tribute to “an English folk legend”, Lemmy! As is now tradition, he demands the crowd sit on the floor and walks out amongst the audience to sing Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’, interspersed with a snippet of the Replacements’ classic, ‘Here Comes A Regular’. He pulls intense faces and the passion is evident – in When You’re Alone he works the crowd with imprecations to clap along. After the crowd practically screaming the chorus to I Don’t Need Anyone, he slows the song down to chat about Motorhead and dying alone.

To round it off he drags on the excellent support band – Headwind (from Nottingham) – to play with The Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi before a couple more encore favourites, topping the set out to a never-too-long hour and three quarters.

His music may lack ultimate originality but the important thing about Jesse Malin is that he means it, unlike the thousands of skinny jean-wearing scenesters that pass themselves off as rock n’ rollers. Reason enough for the wider world to start paying attention!

Ross Halewood and Ross McGibbon