Photography & Review by: Glenn Rossington
Slap bang in the middle of his first UK Tour in a couple of years promoting his brilliant new album ‘Sad and Beautiful World’, New Yorker Jesse Malin stops in on a sleepy English Village to headline a Festival of Americana complete with support from fellow American Kris Gruen.
On a very wet Saturday night, sometimes the best surprises are left hidden in the depths of the English Countryside in a village bordering the Peak District. A random location to be holding a festival of Americana admittedly, but at the same time, it is the perfect location tonight.
The night starts with Kris Gruen offering a sublime acoustic set. Originally from New York, but now a native or Vermont, his set is peppered with tales of love and family, things which are evidently primary in his life. Stand out track tonight is ‘The Painter’ inspired by artist Jivan Lee. A beautiful composition that evokes wild landscapes of America. He closes his set with a lovely rendition of Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around An Old Memory’, introduced about a photograph Gruen’s Dad took featuring The Ramones and more at a Christmas Party in New York.
Having fronted D-Generation and working hard for 20 years as a solo artist, Jesse Malin is no stranger to the stage. You get the impression he is happy to perform wherever the stage is and will always give 110% effort in his shows. Tonight is no exception. First time visit to Leek and after nearly 2 hours on stage, leaves everyone with the feeling of “I was there then”.
A gap is made in the audience for Malin and his band to make their way to the stage, however being the perfect example of Rock n’ Roll, he saunters casually down the opposite side of the room, brushing past the startled audience and launches straight in to ‘The Way We Used To Roll’ with a confrontational defiance. He immediately owns the stage, prowling from left to right and leaning his mic in to the audience members’ faces. ‘Backstabbers’ comes next and ‘Downliner’ sees him pick up his guitar and pull the infamous poses he has become synonymous with.
The set is exceptional. Every member of the band gets a moment in the spotlight, but it’s Malin who owns it. He is a great wordsmith and his stories in between tracks vary between past fancies (‘Wendy’), friends unfortunately no longer with us (‘Todd Youth’) and how lockdown forced him to realise just how vital an audience is to performing and how lonely his online concerts felt at times not being able to hear the applause.
Through every release over the years, Jesse Malin has become stronger and stronger both as a performer and a songwriter. This has become evident with the vast array of artists he has collaborated with; Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams, Billie Joe Armstrong and Bruce Springsteen to name a few. Latest album ‘Sad and Beautiful World’ is flawless, a double album varying between Country, Soul and Rock n Roll. Tonight it is showcased by ‘Dance With The System’, ‘Saint Christopher’, ‘Dance On My Grave’ and the brilliant ‘State of The Art’. Malin is at his best when his primeval, raw, rock side comes out, but the tender moments such as ‘She’s So Dangerous’, ‘Room 13’, ‘Block Island’ and ‘Queen of The Underworld’ show the depths of his vocal range, songwriting and performance.
We get a special cover of The Clash’s ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ which sees him leave the stage and perform amongst the audience to a mass sing-a-long of the classic hit. The main set concludes with a perfect version of his single ‘Meet Me At The End of The World Again’. A joyous, upbeat romp through loss and redemption.
The encore starts with an acoustic rendition of ‘Revelations’ a track from his album with the ‘St Marks’ Social’. This is followed by a stunning version of ‘Brooklyn’ a love letter to his beloved New York State. Both tracks are performed solo, joined by guitarist Derek Cruz to add some stunning effects.
The rest of the band rejoin on stage along with Kris Gruen for a rowdy cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’. As the set closes, Jesse makes his way to the merchandise stand to spend time with fans and signing autographs.
Jesse Malin is a one of a kind artist, and you are always guaranteed a brilliant show whenever he plays. Jesse will be back in the UK next May with Brian Fallon, hopefully a few more UK shows will be announced at some point as Malin deserves his headline sets and as many people to see him as possible. Do not miss out if you are given the opportunity!