Rousing Rock n'Roll
Tours promoting a forthcoming release are always hard; while fans are always eager to hear new material, they can become despondent if there aren't enough possibilities for sing alongs. Luckily Jesse Malin is a master at whipping up his audience into a frenzy and even those new songs that haven't been previewed on his MySpace are quickly embraced by the legion of enthusiastic fans packed into the tiny Islington Academy tonight. Kicking off with a rousing version of 'Riding On The Subway' which has everyone boogying, Jesse's charmingly irreverent chat warms up the frozen crowd with ease; his take on the aforementioned MySpace being that it's become a little strange since dead people can have pages, and even worse the fact that girls you knew in 3rd grade create pages to prove how they're grown up great, the proof of which is pictures of their overblown breasts.
The new tracks fit in perfectly with more well-known additions, with the effervescent 'Lucinda' and new single, 'Don't Let Them Take You Down' being highpoints, as Malin regales us with tales about recording in LA where "nice" is everyone's favourite adjective. Nice. There's a flurry of excitement as the energetic singer tosses out vinyl copies of the new album and single to an elated cry of "Terrorists!" While Malin may carry the torch as the Springsteen of our generation with a talent for pure storytelling and channelling the emotion of the street straight into great guitar tunes, he's infinitely more fun.
As testament to his desire to please fans and own enjoyment of playing live, Malin gives us at least 3 encores, adding in gems like The Replacements' cover, 'Bastards of Young' from the forthcoming album and a frenzied rendition of The Clash's 'Death or Glory' with old bandmate and support act for the evening, Danny Sage. It's during one of these jubilant reappearances that the crowd reaches a peak of excitement, which I have to say I have never witnessed in an English crowd; Malin enforces this by saying that imploring them to make more noise than the Glasgow audience! A staple of any Malin gig is 'Solitaire' a truly affecting ballad that sees the singer make his way through the crowd (via the bar) and settle everyone (even some rather stiff journalists) down on the floor around him. There probably isn't much more moving than singing such a heart-warming number at the top of your voice while the singer looks you in the eyes, something Malin definitely has the pleasure of doing at such a tiny venue.
Other high points include the feverish, 'Hotel Columbia' and 'Broken Radio', a touching ode to Malin's mother which features Bruce Springsteen's added vocals on the album, but in a live setting the duetting duties are covered by the sweet voice of Christine Smith. After such a stirring gig the crowd can only leave feeling rejuvenated and euphoric, drunk with pleasure at being part of such an exuberant display of the power of rock n'roll. If you're looking for passion and a unique flair for storytelling and lighting up a room, then you need look no further than this smart New York songwriter. London can only wait for a rematch, where hopefully this time our screaming will be declared definitively louder than that of the Glaswegians!