Jesse Malin

About half an hour into his set, and halfway through his cover of Helpless by Neil Young, Jesse Malin climbs down off the stage, and lies down in the middle of the audience, and encourages everyone else to lie down with him. Everybody does, and the whole crowd sings “Helpless, Helpless, Helpless” along with him. It’s a powerful moment, even in a venue as small as this. It captures perfectly the frustrations felt by so many who want to change things for the better, but feel utterly powerless in the face of multinational corporations and institutionally corrupt right-wing governments.

Jesse Malin refuses to be pigeonholed. In fact, he gets quite annoyed with people who do try to put him in a little box labelled “new-alt-country-emo-punk-rock” and leave him on a shelf. He just writes songs about things he sees and feels and does: about the beautiful girl on the train he never had the courage to talk to; about being with someone who is completely messed up, but who you love anyway; about living in a country with a government who doesn’t speak for you; about life in a big city and all that entails. He tells tales of how he onced moved a bed for Barbara Streisand, and ended up getting drunk and hanging out by the Atlantic Ocean. He jumps around on stage like a man possessed one moment, before become withdrawn and emotional for a tender acoustic ballad the next. He lives for being on stage and regularly steps over the monitors to meet the crowd, even though he knows it’s what everyone expects of big rock stars. Which, obviously, he’s absolutely sure he’s not; he’s just a guy from New York who wants to make music – and tonight, the people who have come to see him play, are all very glad for that.

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