On their recent swing through Europe, Jesse Malin tells us, he and his band had their rallying cry: “No sleep till Webster Hall!”
Malin’s sold out show there on Saturday night, March 25, wasn’t just another gig; it was a homecoming show in more ways than one. A lot of great rockers have come out of the East Village, but Malin may be the only one who still lives there.
The place was packed with his friends and fans, many of whom — including at least one who had traveled from England just for this show — had stood out in the rain for hours to be as close as possible to Malin for the general admission gig.
Fantastic Cat opened with a rousing set, followed by a mini “friends” set backed by Malin’s band. Cait O’Riordan got things off to a gorgeous start with Malin’s “Shane,” a tribute to Shane McGowan, O’Riordan’s former bandmate in the Pogues. She was followed by Cat Popper and then Aaron Lee Tasjan before Malin took the stage with his celebration of the 20-year-old LP “The Fine Art of Self Destruction,” his first solo album after being in a number of bands.
Two of the more notable were the first, a hardcore outfit called “Heart Attack” that began when he was 12 and the fondly remembered glam punk D*Generation, who released a few records before disbanding. Going solo wasn’t easy, he recalled.
“I was scared to be me,” he told the crowd. “I had always been in a band.”
Malin took time between revisiting the tunes from that first disc to reminisce about the old — living on 3rd Street, “the safest block in NYC,” due to the presence of the infamous Hells Angels clubhouse; writing songs about real people but “changing the names to protect the guilty”; and loudly heckling the Misfits from the balcony of The Ritz (as Webster Hall was then known) after opening for them with Heart Attack.
“I hid in the van after that show because they were looking for me,” he recalled, but two weeks later they cornered him in the Peppermint Lounge, “seven-foot-tall, jacked-up guys with devil locks” with fists raised. “’Are you the guy in Heart Attack?’” one wanted to know. “Um, yeah,” replied the then-14-year-old punk. Fist still raised, the Misfit said, “F**king great show!”
The same was said of the March 25 performance, as the die-hard fans got their money’s worth.
The aforementioned British fan, hypnotherapist Diane Wade, told us, “There are very few people/musicians whom I would travel 4,000 miles to see in concert — but Jesse is very special. It was great to see him enjoying himself with all of his great musician friends. I first saw Jesse supporting Ian Hunter in Bilston, England in 2007, and I have been to see him on every UK tour ever since then. I usually go to 4 or 5 gigs on a tour, if possible. I loved every second of Jesse’s concert at Webster Hall. It was a joy and a great pleasure to be part of that experience!
Longtime local super fan Gail Hoffman was on the same page.
One of the lucky ones who was invited to be in the audience at Bowery Electric earlier in the week for a private friends and family run-through of the show, she told us that ,“I have been a fan of Jesse for about 10 years and I have probably seen him perform at least 200 times in many different cities and in all sized venues! This show was off the charts, amazing energy from start to finish. It was a sold out hometown crowd of over 1500 fans and the room was filled with love. But Jesse gives it his all at every show, even to a small crowd in a small club. He always leaves his blood on the stage. Perfect for my rock ’n’ roll heart.”
With the exception of a guest vocal from Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie in the middle of the show, Malin was the star until the end when he was joined by, variously, Diane Gentile, Johnny Pisano, Tommy Stinson, Butch Walker and Lucinda Williams.
Although still showing some effects of a recent stroke, Williams beautifully sang “Room 13” and “Jukebox” and was part of the group singalong of the great Johnny Thunders’ tune “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” poignantly sung before a backdrop of Malin’s late friend and bandmate Howie Pyro.
The night ended with the horn section — Danny Rey and Satish Indofunk — joining in for a rousing cover of the Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail.”
“After all the sad bastard songs,” Malin remarked later, “it’s good to end with a great dance number. Don’t want to leave everyone bummed out.”
“It was so meaningful to me,” Malin later said of the show. “Singing those songs to a crowd that wrapped around the block in the rain … they knew all the words. You can’t put a price on that – it’s mind blowing and wonderful! I used to play those songs to a few people at Brownie’s every week with just Joe McGinty on keyboards. I’m so thankful for my band and friends and crew and fanbase. It was really moving … there aren’t a lot of nights like that.”
Jesse Malin is online at jessemalin.com and on Instagram at @jesse_malin.