Jesse Malin @Stereo // 14.02.23

Here we are reporting from the trenches of the Y2K revival once again… it’s been 20 years since Jesse Malin released his low key debut ‘The Fine Art of Self Destruction’ back in 2003.

When teenage us, had the record on repeat in our bedrooms, dreaming of red-stone stoops, the Manhattan skyline and all the unfiltered, grunge existentialism that The Big Apple had to offer.

Along came an album that bounced jovially around dark topics such as loneliness and depression.

It was every emo girls dream. Yes, the chord progressions are simple but what do you expect from an album that was hastily slung together in 6 days with the on and off presence of Ryan Adams?

“The Fine Art of Self Destruction” has always been one of those albums that we keep coming back to. Maybe because it reminds us of the whimsical folly of being 15 or maybe it’s because even after all this time we can still warble away to 95% of the lyrics. Some things last a long time, as a wise man once said and what I’m certain of is Glasgow has held a symbiotic brotherhood with Jesse Malin for years and I’m confident he will be playing in our city for years to come.

Stereo is completely packed to the rafters this evening, it’s squeezing room only and we had clamber up onto the side seats just to catch a glimpse of the action.

Jesse strolls on stage at the early time of 8:20pm, having played Glasgow countless times I’m sure he’s familiar that we like a good bang for our buck and with Stereo’s gig curfew set strictly at 10pm he’s making sure he delivers on the promise of kickstarting the UK tour with bang.

Sporting tartan trousers and a whole new set of togs he purchased that afternoon from the ubiquitous Dee’s of Trongate, he opens the set with, “Hotel Columbia”, from his 2016 album, “The Heat”… but wait aren’t we here for one album played in it’s entirety?

“I didn’t want to do things the boring way” explains Jesse. He continued on with, “The Way We Used to Roll” and “Turn up the Mains” before starting with the title track of “Queen of the Underworld”.

The band will go on to play the album in sequential order, briefly punctuated in the middle by a cover of The Replacements, “Bastards of Young”.

The band play a like a well oiled machine, the songs have have a certain grace and poignancy that can only be matured over time – like a fine wine. It’s clear they still hold appeal from the reactions of the riveted crowd.

But what really made this performance special was the affinity Malin has with the Weedgie audience.

There’s recollections of good times he had visiting the goth headquarters of our town The Cathouse in his 20’s when his former band supported Greenday at the infamous Barrowland.

There’s jovial banter about Manhattan slum lords, the Hells Angels, being in part of a anarchist group when he was 16 and having a friend dump all over his record collection as a teenager.

It’s this intimate glimpse into the stories that inspired the tracks on the album that really have the audience captivated.

There is even a funny interlude about King Tut’s (which is Malin’s usual stomping ground in Glasgow) where he explains how he used to work the door at the NYC nightclub that the independent music venue borrowed its name from.

Subsequently a bar in NYC, called Niagara which serendipitously he now helps to run.

There’s moments of entertaining showmanship, when Malin, throwing covid caution to the wind (although he did confess to being a part time germaphobe).

Bounded into the audience to sing amongst the audience, at one point during “She Don’t Love Me Now” even clambering up beside us (15 year old me would have literally died).

But the underlying caveat of the evening was all about love, acceptance and generally have a good time and above all else be kind to each other.

Set highlights for us included; “Subway” with its sunny, jazz piano and upbeat jangle it’s not hard to imagine Bruce Springsteen playing it, “Tranny” about a friend of Malin’s whose mafia associated father disapproved of his sons penchant for getting drunk and dressing in drag.

Clearly before the time of Drag Race.

The Fine are of Self Self Destruction’ with its languishing guitar riff. Made even more poignant when Malin explained that the name was inspired by The Boomtown Rats, “The Fine Art of Surfacing” which featured the track “I Don’t Like Mondays” which sadly inspired the 1979 Cleveland Elementary Shooting.

“This was inspired by a Welsh man called Lenny” Malin explains in a wee doff of the cap to Motörhead before singing “Solitare” with honeyed vocals.

The album set list is capped with “Meet Me at the End of the World Again” before a brief encore that begins with, “Thank you for 29 years of friendship, Glasgow” the band play a super up temp, blinding cover of The Clash’s “Rudy Can’t Fail” which has the packed out crowed pogoing rapturously along to.

The only thing worth lamenting over is that we didn’t have time to hang around after the set, to get our vinyl signed.

Oh well, that can wait for what I feel will be a timeous return once again to Glasgow.

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