Jesse Malin @ 02 Institute, Birmingham on 18/2/16


Jesse Malin has been at a peak of creativity over the past 18 months of so, which has seen him release two of the best albums of his career. The even greater news is that it has resulted in him visiting these shores again. As any Jesse Malin fan will know, a night in his company is always an entertaining one.

Tonight he opened up the show with “Brooklyn” a song which is intense and quite melancholic for a show opener. It’s a bold choice but actually serves to immediately attract and keep the crowd’s attention. However, this is not going to be one of his quieter shows, gone (for now at least) are the solo, acoustic performances. He now brings a full band (including a small horns section tonight) and is determined to rock out. This is brilliantly demonstrated by the disco, pop, rock n roll of “Addicted” and the simply classic “Hotel Columbia”. The horn section is brought on for “Turn Up The Mains” and along with “She Don’t Love Me Now” there is a sense that Jesse is really enjoying his music again.

A key element of any Jesse gig is the in between song banter. Whilst other acts fill the gaps with thank yous and other inane chat, Mr Malin is a true orator. He could quite easily have made a career out of being a comedian. Tonight we get tales such as one that involves J.D. Salinger, Hollywood, movie producers, police and arrests. He has clearly lived a wild and varied life, we can only hope that a biography will feature at some point.

The re release of his debut album (see our review here also ensures we get to hear plenty of classic tracks, including “Riding on The Subway” and “Almost Grown”, all songs that are welcomed by the crowd like old friends. That’s not to say that he doesn’t still throw in the odd surprise or two. Tonight we get a real treat with a storming version of Teenage Fanclub’s “What You Do To Me”. It’s not a cover you would expect but is a brilliant one.

Given the huge back catalogue he has created, it is perhaps no wonder that his set list now feels like a group of greatest hits. The thing you realise is just how he has managed to evolve and develop his sound over the years. We get the brilliant “Death Star” which is just great fun and makes you feel you have been transported to a New York dive bar. Then there is the all time favourite, “Wendy”, a song that shows he has always known how to rock n roll.

As already mentioned, it feels like Jesse Malin has gone through some kind of rejuvenating period. This is shown not only in his recorded output but also in his live shows. Maybe it was the regrouping of his previous band D’Generation, but there is a definite sense he has been revitalised and is playing with a renewed passion. His shows have always been great but the emphasis has moved from intimacy and sincerity to being about a good time playing rock n roll. What ever the reason, going to a Jesse Malin show remains a great way of reminding yourself of why you love music and the wonderfully positive effect it can have on you.

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