Jesse Malin – Shepherds Bush Empire, London

The timing of this show is somewhat odd, coming as it does nearly a month before the release of Malin's second album, The Heat. The audience doesn't know the new songs and Jesse chides them for their reserve when he plays the unfamiliar material. He admits it's his own fault, though. The album was meant to be out now, but was delayed when he added two extra tracks.

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The timing of this show is somewhat odd, coming as it does nearly a month before the release of Malin’s second album, The Heat. The audience doesn’t know the new songs and Jesse chides them for their reserve when he plays the unfamiliar material. He admits it’s his own fault, though. The album was meant to be out now, but was delayed when he added two extra tracks. So sensibly, for much of the night he concentrates on the gritty, streetwise vignettes from his much-acclaimed debut, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction.

Dressed in an ill-fitting bum-freezer jacket with an acoustic guitar slung round his neck, he gives us “Wendy” and “Downliner” in quick succession as his four-piece band (“from New York,” as he helpfully tells us) sets up a fine old racket behind him. By the time he gets to “Hotel Columbia”, a classic road song from the new album, the jacket is off and so is the shirt, as he strips down to sleeveless Springsteen-style singlet. A long preamble about his punk credentials seems to be going nowhere before he tells us that Neil Young is “the most fuckin’ punk rock person in the world” and launches into an improbable version of “Helpless”, which he dedicates to Tony Blair. He captures Neil’s distressed choirboy tone to perfection, but is soon back to a New York snarl on “Arrested” and the brilliant “Mona Lisa” from the new record.

He returns for an encore and delivers a potent acoustic “Solitaire” from Fine Art. He’s been complaining all night that we haven’t made enough noise and finally, to his obvious delight, most of the crowd joins in. Suitably encouraged, he concludes with a couple more everybody knows?Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” (recorded especially for Uncut, which raises a big cheer when he mentions it) and a stirring version of Costello’s “Oliver’s Army”. He needs to come back soon, when the songs on The Heat have permeated our consciousness, and he surely won’t find London quite so reticent.

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