“there are two kinds of music…
“….good music, and bad music.”
–Jesse Malin, Maxwell’s, 26 July 2004
I watch Jesse onstage, and it has never been so clear to me, as much as it has lately, that what Mark Arm refers to as “The War On Suck-Ass Music” is still raging in our midst, and that we have to win. We just have to.
You can always count on Jesse for a good, old-fashioned, well-placed rant about something that’s changed into something *not* for the better – whether it’s how NYU destroyed the Palladium and turned it into the Palladium Dormitories, or tonight, about good vs. bad and MTV, and what happened to buying records?
It really is that simple, you know. And yes, things are changing, and even I, luddite that I am, now make the iTunes Store vs. buy the cd deliberation, just like I made the buy the LP vs. buy the cd deliberation back in, say, 1986 – it still boils down to what is good and real and righteous, what makes you FEEL compared to what’s produced as “beer and lifestyle music” (thank you, Cliff Poncier, and if I have to explain that reference, I feel sorry for you).
(Actually, I should be making the “L” with my thumb and forefinger that my sister does when I go off on these kinds of tirades.)
So Jesse has this weird crowd, now, I would say ‘it was bad enough when all the Ryan fans started showing up’ but then again, it’s hardly a badge of popularity to be a Ryan Adams fan these days, so, ya know, welcome aboard, and like Jesse said tonight, without Ryan, he’d still be DJ’ing on Monday nights. And then Bruce takes a shine to our Jesse and suddenly the guys next to you at Giants Stadium who would have a conversation about sports during “Lost In The Flood” are showing up at Jesse shows just in case Himself decides to make an appearance.
Anyway, it was weird, and I only mention this because I think the general vibe contributed to some energetic choppiness at the beginning of the set. It was the kind of thing where, for half a second (only half), you start to wonder if it was worth leaving the house on a school night.
But I should have just trusted Jesse to shine on, and he did, of course, brilliantly. He found his groove and despite brand new in-ear monitors causing havoc, there was humor and melody and RAWK. It was a tour opener that felt like the last show of a tour that’s been triumphant.
Highlights – I always hate to write a review of a show that’s supporting a new release and then gush about the performances of songs from a previous release, but those were the standouts to me tonight. And, actually, you could look at it as a positive – because you *want* to play the new stuff, that’s the material that’s usually the freshest – so the fact that the older songs are better than they ever were is huge. They’ve either found (or gone back to, I partially suspect) a more rockin’ sound – “Riding On The Subway” just cranked, for example, “Wendy” burned a hole in the stage, “Queen of the Underworld” seemed to bounce along. Of the new album, “Arrested” was the biggest standout to me.
Covers: “Three Martini Lunch” by Graham Parker pissed me off, because it made me want to drag out my GP collection, all of which is on vinyl, and then that sent me wondering about buying CD’s (thanks, Jesse); declaring a sing-a-long to an Elvis Costello tune and for a split second I was thinking it would be “Peace, Love and Understanding” (Note to ALL bands: That song has been covered TOO MUCH. Get another song, write another song, do something, but this one is DONE, CLOSED, MOVE ALONG.) only to remember that the EC cover is “Oliver’s Army” (and, you know, even at an Elvis show it would be pushing it a little to call it a sing-a-long). An acoustic “Pocahantas” (by Young Neil, of course) is a surprise *beyond* delightful (prefaced by a rap about Marlon Brando). And then, finally, for the very last song, I recognize the melody but can’t *quite* place it until the lyrics kick in: a pure pop punk version of “Everybody’s Talking”.
The band leaves the stage one by one, Jesse’s up there with his drummer, wailing away, seeming all the world like he was just getting started and not winding down.
Then I realized: it’s show one of the tour – that’s exactly what he was doing.
Celebrity spotting: Bob Gruen, wearing a New York Dolls shirt (NOT vintage).
Homecoming (last show of the tour), September 11 at Bowery Ballroom.
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