I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Jesse Malin play, at benefits, at festivals, as an opener, but last night was the first time I’ve seen a proper Jesse Malin show, and it was proof that I should have done this years ago. Coming off two wildly successful Joe Strummer tribute shows and a European and UK tour, Jesse and his band were tight and on point for the full 2 hours, even as Jesse was climbing through the crowd to sing from the bar or going off setlist.
The show was the first of Jesse’s residency at his new club Coney Island Baby. Nestled on Ave A in the spot that used to be the beloved HiFi bar, and Brownies before that, Coney Island Baby is one of those magical places where the band melts directly into the audience, in no small part because the stage is at ankle height. The front row often found itself on catching-the-falling-mic-stand duty, while Jesse got lost in the swell of the crowd.
Malin pulled from all eras of his solo career, including new tracks that are currently being prepared for a new album. The 20-plus song set included such Malin staples as Brooklyn, All The Way From Moscow, You Know It’s Dark When Atheists Start To Pray, Turn Up The Mains, and more, and covers of The Ramones (Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio), The Clash (Rudie Can’t Fail), and The Lords of the New Church (Russian Roulette).
The night wasn’t entirely a party, though, as Jesse was also reeling from the death of his father last week. Like the best memorials, the show swung easily between somber and celebratory. He peppered in stories about their relationship (often taking on a “Bronx” accent that sounded more like a muppet than a New Yorker) that moved the audience and were clearly cathartic for the punk-rocker-turned-troubadour. One such memory was of Jesse’s father saying “I’ll come see you when you get to play The Garden” when Jesse told him that his band was playing three sold out nights at CBGBs. “He didn’t quite get what was going on there.” Jesse explained. “He was an accountant. He liked the swag, he liked the merch.”
Jesse’s residency has him and his band at Coney Island Baby for the next three Tuesday nights. As Jesse said last night, “things are great, we’re playing Tuesday’s at Brownies!”
Listen to Mozy’s Jesse Malin playlist here.