@ Leeds Brudenell Social Club
When I arrived early to interview Jesse, he was working his band through over an hour of rehearsal and soundchecking – he’s someone who takes the work very seriously. They’re new for this tour and he’s determined to make it perfect. They seem a dedicated bunch and have been drilled tightly. The proof is in the live performance though and the Brudenell gets a treat tonight. This is the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen Jesse play and this is the best of the bunch – strong songs treated to exceptional treatments through a consistent show. Eighty minutes of soul-lifting music.
With three albums to draw on, Malin mixes the three and it is clear that it’s not a case of ‘oh no, the new album – please play the old faves’ – old and new sit side by side and get equal reception from the very keen audience of about 250-ish at this small, out of town-centre venue. Old favourite Riding On The Subway opens and segues in a beat into Prisoners Of Paradise, which goes straight into Blackhaired Girl. Having set the scene for energy, Malin can pause to say hello and exhorts Leeds on a Saturday night to clap, arms aloft – “hands on drink or hands on groin, get them up”. He chats about other venues and how he expected to get mugged at this teeny, off-street venue, throwing in a corny joke while he’s at it. Then it’s on with another rocker – Little Star – about not getting downtrodden. The band is bouncy and energetic and Jesse gives the guitarist his head regularly for solos. The Springsteen duet single follows – Broken radio, a powerful ballad. Don’t Let It Take You Down is another burst of inspiration before another corny joke. The anthemic Brooklyn is a ballad that morphs into a rocker and the crowd is keen enough to clap along without being asked, they’re very into it. The B-side Clash cover, Death Or Glory, features the classic couplet – “he who fucks nuns will later join the church”. A long talk in the middle of this, ranging over politics and the internet leads to an excited Jesse falling off stage into the audience and using the opportunity to seat everyone and lead a sing-along. He reminds us how great it is to get out and see live gigs (as if we needed reminding…) and quips how record company fears of the internet are like the home-taping fears mocked in the slogan “home fucking is killing prostitution”!
Old favourite, Wendy, is very high energy, very rock and roll and very melodic. After fifty minutes the band disappears and Malin delivers Bastards Of Young with just piano and the re-written Since You’re In Love solo on acoustic guitar. More rocking anthems follow before he attempts a Patti Smith babelogue-type thing not entirely successfully. At least it is less scary than last time in Leeds where he just appeared to have lost the plot, shouting stream of conciousness into audience member’s ears. He builds to a huge pounding ending but…., no, he’s back for a quiet solo acoustic number – Aftermath – to cool us off.
Okay, I’m a fan, but after five gigs, it’s not worn off and I am struck again by how I am left with an earful of songs, all engaging, strong and passionate. Jesse Malin is a celebrated but under-attended performer and that’s to the benefit of the few hundred that grab a tight evening like this in a small venue.