Limelight 2, Belfast
22nd June 2019
Jesse Malin is a frequent visitor to these isles, but it been four years since his last release and shows in Ireland. Tonight we are treated to a complete performance of his seminal first album, ‘The Fine Art of Self Destruction’.
At the time of its release, the album was garnered with plaudits from critics and punters alike, and many saw the street smart New Yorker as the next big thing. On the basis of the man’s output since then, and on tonight’s powerhouse performance, one can only ponder on the fickle nature of the paying public. This guy should be headlining festivals, not filling the second hall in the Limelight.
Malin’s music is cut from the same cloth as The Gaslight Anthem, and The Hold Steady, and is as sonically and sartorially eloquent as either. That lineage harkens back to the sound and energy of the Ramones and Blondie, and tonight Malin gives every ounce of energy.
From the first drum roll of ‘Queen of the Underworld’, Malin, backed by an impeccable four-piece band, rocks out and the level only intensifies as the night progresses, and lays down his manifesto for the night –
And all the things you have broken. And you can’t go back if they are broken, from dysfunction to this function, you know I’m singing just for you.
Like all great songwriters, he can take a story, personal to himself, and make it universal. Eighteen years after its release, I had forgotten how many superb tracks are on the album, ‘Wendy’, ‘TKO’, ‘Riding on the Subway’. The beautiful ‘Brooklyn’ with sterling work by Rob Clores on Keys remains a delight.
By the album’s halfway point, the room is jumping. It seems to get louder with every song. The album complete, the beat continues apace with the Rolling Stones-like stomp of ‘Meet Me at the End of the World’. In between songs, the very amiable Malin regales the crowd with ribald tales of his youth and jokes that would make your aunt blush,
A slight digression from the general timbre of the show, is a lovely and quite faithful rendition of the soft rock classic ‘Operator (That’s Not The Way It Feels)’, which goes down a treat with the totally engaged crowd.
A terrific version of ‘She Don’t Love Me Now’ merits a descent from the stage and a walk through the crowd, to the delight of the assembled punters. Unfortunately, the mic lead is not long enough, and a few punters at the front of the stage are in danger of being garroted, but it all ends well with the Malin jokingly cursing the length of his “linguine” in his New York drawl. His coat long ago discarded, his braces are eased as the heat continues to emanate from the stage, and soon the shirt is open to the waist, as the band continues to crank out the music at a ferocious rate.
Special note to the guitar playing of Derek Cruz, who makes it all seems effortless, alongside the effortless cool of Cat Popper on bass and the powerhouse drumming of Randy Schrager.
Jesse’s new album, ‘Sunset Kids’, produced by alt-country queen Lucinda Williams is due out in August, hopefully with a return visit to back it up. Tracks released so far indicate it may be right up there with his best work. Hopefully, it will be the album to take Jesse to the next level, where he so deserves to be.