THE BORDERLINE, LONDON
TUESDAY JANUARY 21 2003
“Just wait til see you me with my fuckin’ band, man,” Jesse Malin had said backstage at the Royal Festival Hall, after opening solo and acoustic for Ryan Adams last November. And he wasn’t kidding.
He’s flanked by two razor-sharp dudes who look like they walked out of a remake of West Side Story, but turn out to be bassist Johnny Pisano and guitarist Johnny Rocket. It may just be a trick of the light, but keyboardist Joe McGinty is sporting what looks suspiciously like a black eye. And unsmiling drummer Paul Garisto has clearly taken time off from his job as the enforcer for some gang of street hoodlums from Queen’s or the Bronx. Then there’s Jesse himself. He’s a punk but a sensitive one, which explains why he looks like he can’t decide whether he wants to audition for The Ramones or to be Bob Dylan.
On balance, tonight it’s The Ramones who win. Malin once fronted a punk band called D Generation (who even opened for Kiss at Madison Square Garden, he tells us in one of his wicked asides). And with the full-throttle roar of a ripped-and-torn band behind him, the legacy of Joey and the boys, The Stooges, the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers refuses to lie down.
He opens with “Downliner” from his Ryan Adams-produced album, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction. He’s still clutching the acoustic guitar he played at the Festival Hall. But it’s really only there for show, because we can’t hear a note as the band thunder behind him as if their lives depend on it.
Almost immediately, he’s into an exhilarating version of “Wendy”, the best cut on the album?and, hey, he dedicates it to Uncut. This, it transpires, is not a thank you for the five-star-album-of-the-month review. He’s getting those everywhere. It’s because on the free CD with January’s magazine, we placed the track next to the great Tom Waits, a juxtaposition which means that should he be hit by the proverbial 10-ton truck tomorrow, Malin would at least die happy and fulfilled.
In between the songs, there’s a fund of New York stories, including a tale about looking for Barbra Streisand’s dildo when he had to remove furniture from her apartment during a brief spell as a van driver. Most of the songs from The Fine Art… are given turbo-charged outings. But there are some new ones, too. “Fuck the police,” he spits as he dedicates a snarling new rocker called “Arrested” to Pete Townshend. Then they play “Death Or Glory” for Joe Strummer. “I didn’t go to school much,” Jesse tells us. “But Joe was my professor.” He returns alone to give us the evening’s only acoustic moment with “Solitaire” before the punk gang return for a rabble-rousing, stop-the-war version of Nick Lowe’s “What’s So Funny ‘Bout (Peace, Love and Understanding)”. It’s one of those nights that restores your faith in the power of rock’n’roll to change the world.
Then, outside on the pavement, we find the car has been clamped. Fuck the police, indeed.