REVIEW: Jesse Malin – Voodoo, Belfast
New York singer-songwriter Jesse Malin kicked off his latest tour on September 8th in Voodoo, Belfast. The Outsiders tour comes ahead of the artist’s upcoming album of the same name scheduled for release on October 9th. This follows his last effort, “New York before the War” which was released in March of this year.
The crowd gathered in Voodoo tonight is a diverse one; varying ages, varying styles, various ideas of gig etiquette. Despite some rushing to dance at the front, others frantically search for seating. Some don stony faces of concentration during the set whilst others are more content to flit in and out of private and oftentimes rambunctious conversation. However they are all here for the same reason: their love of Malin’s music.
The night is kicked off by Tony Wright otherwise known as VerseChorusVerse. As he takes to the small stage it does not take long for attention to pique. Following a bout of tuning which Wright jokingly refers to as his “most popular song” the local musician launches into some of his newest material. “Have Some Soul” perfectly demonstrates Wright’s vocal capacity. It is loaded with a bluesy feel and attitude that will permeate the remainder of his set. While he may be alone on the stage, he dominates it, ably filling the room with his presence. Yet not content with having established his hold of the stage alone, Wright makes his way onto the floor amidst the appreciative crowd. From here he explains how he believes the fourth verse of Merle Travis’s “Sixteen Tons” to be the best lyrics ever written. He comically points out the irony of the lines, “If you see me comin’, better step aside, A lot of men didn’t and a lot of men died” being delivered tonight by a five foot guy. Wright closes his set with the infectious “Shake Down Sally”, a song with a rock and roll vibe and vocal warbling reminiscent of the King himself.
While Wright’s musical influences can clearly be seen, Malin’s are more subtle and perhaps varied. As he climbs onstage The Clash’s “Bankrobber” is blasted through the small venue. He lifts his guitar covered in a plethora of stickers ranging from the iconic Rolling Stones tongue to the cover art of hardcore punk band Bad Brains’ self-titled debut. Picking up on the diversity of the crowd, Malin joked about how he is constantly asked what kind of a musician he is, a question he feels to be irrelevant. What he feels is important is rock and roll and community. These two elements are what will dominate the night.
The mood is a relaxed one as Malin regales the crowd with stories both within and asides from his songs. He talks about vinyl records, American politics, and of course his music. Before launching into “Love It To Life” from the album of the same name, Malin fondly remembers how at twelve years old Joe Strummer signed a ticket for him and wrote this very phrase. Both album and song pay homage to this personal memory. While the night is not all about storytelling, the intimate feel which these personal snapshots have created reaches the next level midway through “Bar life”. Here Malin walks off the stage and into the audience, sitting down amongst them and instructing they do the same. From here artist and crowd complete the remainder of the song together. When he leaves the stage once more at what seems to be the end of his set, the audience were less thrilled. As a result, Malin returns for a final three songs, but first, a tequila shot which had made its way to the front of stage especially for him.
Thankfully, he does return as the title track for his upcoming album Outsiders proves to be one of the highlights of the night: a melodic track where both lyrics and guitar playing are given equal attention. The final track, “Burning the Bowery” sees Malin call for all the house lights to be turned on as he and the crowd become one entity again. Malin earlier spoke of a diverse community which music created. Tonight he has manifested some of what he spoke of. Laura Shields, GiggingNI.com