Concert Review by Adam Foster
Live at the Borderline, London – 21 January 2003
If you know Jesse Malin at all, it is either because he was Ryan Adams’ support act on his tour last year, or you have heard his debut album THE FINE ART OF DESTRUCTION.
If you fall into either camp, Jesse Malin’s current tour is a revelation. For those who saw him on Adams’s tour, a solo slot with acoustic guitar, the five-piece band will come as a surprise. For those who are familiar with the melodic pop rock of the album, the distinctly punk-orientated approach of the live set will perhaps be a shock.
It should not be. Live, the songs from the album find their real setting. DOWNLINER on the album is a relatively downbeat, Travelling-Wilburys-meets-Big-Country affair. When used to open the show here, it became a crowd-pleasing stomp-fest. Similar transformations occurred with TKO (a Springsteen-style observational ditty on the album, but an energetic romp live), BROOKLYN, QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD (the first single), and ALMOST GROWN. A new song – ARRESTED – was no less enthusiastically received by the crowd. Best of all, though, was WENDY: the one vague reminder of Malin’s past on the album, it earned its place here as the new wave jewel it deserves to be. I have not seen such a spontaneous outbreak of pogoing in years. It only serves as a reminder of what might have been had not Ryan Adams acted as producer on the album.
And Jesse Malin is a great host: the anecdotes he tells between songs are jewels in themselves, reflecting a wry humour and a varied past: from stories about his broken home to being Barbara Streisand’s removal man, he makes you wish you could spend more time with the man, have a beer. And that’s not a bad trick.
His support act, Jeff Klein, only told one anecdote during his slot: about his failure to masturbate during a five-day stay at his parents’ house. Like much of his slot, it made us smile in an embarrassed but appreciative way.
Like Malin on his last tour, Klein is playing the support act armed with just an acoustic guitar. Unlike Malin’s punk-pop sketches, Klein’s slow-burn songs do not lend themselves to such a treatment. In such a small (and, during his act, quiet) venue, Klein barely needed a mic, but the levels seemed to have been set for the London Arena, exposing the technique of his “baby shit sandpaper voice” (his words). This is a shame: his album EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER is the equal of Malin’s in quality, and deserves a visit. But the intelligent instrumentation employed there requires a top-notch band to back it up live.
Still, it was a great evening. Malin began his encore with a cracking version of Nick Lowe’s PEACE LOVE & UNDERSTANDING, by which time I had stopped taking notes and was pogoing inexpertly with the rest of them. We left a happier and deafer crowd.