This Jesse Malin article was written by Stevin Loftin, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Fraisia Dunn.
It’s a hard thing to see someone who can be could be considered of legendary status in a small venue. The name Jesse Malin may be a name you’ve not heard before but this is someone who’s been in punk bands since he was 12, even auditioning to play ‘CBGB’s’, and has collaborated with the likes of Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen.
Taking place in the basement of Sound Control feels incredibly apt with its exposed brick and concrete. This almost mimics the era of New York most synonymous with Malin’s formative years, and that dealt us the majority of the American punk movement. The reason this is relevant is because it adds to the atmosphere, extending a flourish to everything that’s already expected from Malin.
With 13 years worth of solo material, Malin has a rare opportunity to pull everything and anything out of the bag, especially considering he hasn’t got “hits” per se, it’s hard to be disappointed. His backing band was the usual, guitar, bass and drums, but also assisted with a two-piece horn section who did an amazing job of adding a ska flavour to the setlist on occasion. This was particularly prominent during his cover of The Clash’s staple ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’, a perfect homage to the never forgotten Joe Strummer who Malin was friends with in his last years.
The tour was in support of his rather productive 2015, which consisted of two album releases, ‘New York Before The War’ and ‘Outsiders’. Cuts from the former were more prominent than the latter, although this isn’t a direct reference to the quality of the tracks, both records are as strong as each other. He’s also supporting the re-pressing of his earlier records, which has started with ‘The Fine Art of Self Destruction’. Watching an artist perform from such an extensive back catalogue, is a great way to see their evolution and a true testament to Malin’s talents.
Between songs his anecdotes from past experiences and song influences were worth admission alone. From getting an old bass player a job at a brothel, to staring in a film with Nicolas Cage, Malin has seen a lot and written a whole lot more.
A particular highlight was on the final song, ‘Bar Life’, during which Malin left the stage and made his way though the crowd to the bar at the side of the venue. He then proceeded to mount the bar and walk up and down performing brief, mildly controversial comedy and addressing political issues with the crowd. This brought a far higher level of intimacy than any gig ever could. It was one man, who has ideas and thoughts, conversing with a group of people who want to hear what he says and believe his libertine values.
Once he finished his declarations he lead the crowd into a singalong of the song’s chorus before leaving us wanting so much more. After his set had ended, much to his dismay, he didn’t even bother with leaving the stage and returning to his dressing room or backstage. He came straight from the stage into the crowd and headed to the merch desk to meet his fans. This is the sign of someone who has been around long enough to know you don’t get where you are without the people who listen to what you have to say. A truly professional artist who is a diamond in the rough.