|Jesse Malin & The St Marks Social/The Killing Floor/Allan Fox - Bristol, Thekla - 23rd June 2010|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Wednesday, 30 June 2010 06:00|
Kicking off the UK leg of his 'Love It To Life' Tour on the same night as the host nation was playing its most important national 'ball game' since the last time the media told the people it was, Jesse Malin wasn't exactly choosing an easy tour introduction. But in saying that you have to ask "has Jesse ever done anything the easy way?" He is the unsung hero of the underground, whether it be from his punk rock beginnings or his more rootsy americana current day leanings, nothing will stop those of us 'in the know' from witnessing the man live, and tonight is no different. Ball game or no ball game.
So arriving fashionably late at the venue due to the glut of traffic heading into the fine city of Bristol, with everyone seemingly all celebrating something! I immediately bump into Über Röck friends of old, Todd Youth and Johnny Martin from The Royal Highness, who are along with Jesse as part of the St Marks Social. As a result I got caught up in the buzz surrounding the tour's opening night and somehow managed to miss the short set from their fellow band mate Allan Fox, who is opening up this tour on keyboards and vocals. But at least I cleared up some inter band confusion that indeed "York.....is not in Wales."
Taking up a balcony spot for Anglo/American four-piece The Killing Floor, they manage to continue the fine tradition their headliner has of bringing cool new bands out of the road with him. Singer/bassist Marco Argiro has a sort of Paul Nicholas seventies rock star charm about him that should see a fair few ladies waft his way as the tour progresses. The band's guitarist Marc Alberici meanwhile rather spookily resembles a certain member of D Generation circa their debut album. Sounding like a mash up of Soulwax and Post Stardom Depression with some Grohl like pop sensibilities the band's imminent album has a fine single cut in the shape of 'Shout'. Stadiums await I think.
With a crushed red velvet backdrop and a Frank Sinatra intro tape setting the scene pefrectly for the night's headliners, Jesse Malin & The St Marks Social wasted very little time in what some might call 'pleasantries', by launching headlong into a rambunctious version of 'Burning The Bowery'. And it was immediately obvious this was a very different Jesse to the last time I had witnessed him live, not too far away and not so long ago. Seemingly bereft of whatever demons had been plaguing him around the time of 2008's 'On Your Sleeve', tonight's set was not only set to maximum RPM but illustrated what the irrepressible frontman can do when he is in shall we say a more 'relaxed' environment. 'Disco Ghetto' and 'Burn The Bridge' from Jesse's new album being two perfect examples of this, and thankfully both included tonight.
The appearance of the acoustic guitar heralded the arrival of 'Wendy', but this was still pretty much pumped up to the max stuff and not unlike a certain Mr Costello at his very best. 'Queen Of The Underworld' took things down a notch and it was at this point that you could fully appreciate the new sounds and textures that Jesse's new band were adding to his illustrious back catalogue, with Todd Youth in particular effortlessly switching styles from Tom Verlaine to Scotty Moore to Dr Know to help deliver the musical payload.
It is always a joy to witness Jesse Malin 'the raconteur supreme' in full flow, and his tales tonight included such subject matters as "bunking off school", "researching JD Salinger", and "dealing with deranged ex girlfriends", and this weaves a rich tapestry around his sometimes brutal ('Black Boombox') and sometime fragile ('The Archer') soundtrack to life. Finishing off the main set with a brisk 'Black Haired Girl' and punchy 'All The Way From Moscow' I was left with a feeling of "how do they better this?"
Well rest assured better it they did, by returning for a five-song encore that.... Nah I'm not going to spoil this for those of you catching this tour later on. Let's just say surprises are plentiful, and prepare to get the ass of your jeans dirty.
2010 certainly has been a bountiful year for live music, and in particular for a lot of artistes we love right here at Über Röck. You can certainly add Jesse Malin & The St Marks Social high on the list for my gigs of the year on tonight's showing. But wait, fuck, this was only the opening night, heaven help anyone catching them later in the tour...Enjoy.