It’s got to be close to two and a half years since many of us originally purchased tickets for tonight’s show. Such are the unprecedented circumstances that tonight’s headliner is now touring a completely different album to the one we would have seen him touring originally, but such is the sense of joy that surrounds us all tonight that this is all finally happening I bet Jesse could have played a set of countrified acoustic Clash covers (more of which later) and no one would have batted an eyelid.

Tonight’s line up is indeed an all-acoustic affair, and I’ve never seen the Le Pub stage look quite so barren, resembling something more akin to the set up for a stand-up comedy show than a rock show. But rock it most certainly does (there’s an obvious Val Doonican gag right there but tonight I’m bigger than it), especially when we have local lad James Mattock opening up proceedings. James, you may or may not know, has been in bands such as White Trash, The Computers and Sharks and is currently fronting post punk outfit The Violent Hearts. So, to see James sans band (and normally a quite raucous one at that) is something of a unique situation indeed, however as soon as he opens his mouth any initial concerns I may have had about him maybe not connecting with an audience here largely to enjoy music with (shall we say) a more American bent, are promptly put to bed.

Yes, the largely all new set of songs are pretty much unknown to both myself and the audience, but that doesn’t stop James from receiving very healthy applause for his repertoire, which subject matter wise ranged from songs specifically designed for the lovers in the audience through to his rather obvious (and quite understandable) loathing of Tory politicians, something which manifests itself in the shape of the glorious gothic loop pedal driven tirade that is ‘The Lure’. There are times during James’ relatively short set when I can still clearly hear the underlying punk influence, but this is all topped off with a pop sensibility that actually has me thinking of Dog Man Star’ era Suede, especially during the sombre ‘Anything But Evil’.

Apparently, the songs aired tonight are going to be forming the base for the next Violent Hearts album, which on the strength of this performance promises to be a very interesting proposition indeed.

Having already received a rave review on these hallowed pages from brother Ben Hughes I have to admit that the prospect of seeing a singer/songwriter probably more at home in the surroundings of the Grand Ole Opry than CBGB doesn’t exactly fill me with excitement, but then as I’ve never seen Kelley Swindall live before I’ve never experienced the absolute joy her music can bring to an evening. Straight out of NYC but born and raised in the American south Kelley’s live show is (structure-wise at least) not unlike tonight’s headliner, in so much as its not just about the songs, but the story behind those songs, so forgive me if I almost choke on my beverage when set opener ‘Alight Alright’ has Kelley quoting Milton and talking about life’s many paradigms. I mean this is Le Pub right? All joking aside, this balls out approach immediately has me won over, even before a note is honked on the spit ruined first harmonica of the night. The storytelling brings a real punk rock spirit to the likes of ‘Spring Street Dive’ whilst during ‘Refuse to Be Blue’ Kelley clearly wears her Georgia-born heart on her sleeve, sounding not unlike a modern-day Patsy Cline. 

There’s a point during ‘You Can Call Me Darlin’ If You Want’ where you could hear a pin drop, such is the power of Kelley’s performance (and I must give credit to tonight’s audience who were in the very best of order for all three acts) and what better way to end a show than by celebrating the fact we are all, whether we like it or not,  going to die. Kelley Swindall made many new friends here tonight, myself included and I’m sure she’ll make many more as her UK tour extends through to the middle of July.    

Author: Johnny ‘Honky Tonk’ Hayward

Jesse Malin is a performer that can do this live business anyway, anywhere, anyhow. Be it rockin out with a band or with his buddy Derek Cruz on keys and guitar or all on his lonesome. I’ve seen him do all permutations and in all sorts of venues from intimate clubs like tonight or in a field at Hyde Park or in bigger venues and he never gives less than 100% with varied sets of deep cuts and crowd-pleasers Jesse is an awesome performer with a heart as big as Manhatten and it beats out the rhythm any pace he wants.

Tonight is the opening night of his tour that takes in Glastonbury and with himself and Derek Cruz taking to the stage at 9.15 prompt Jesse was one of the first Americans to fly the nest post covid and along with his band turned in the finest live performance of 2021 bar none. Tonight whilst it was stripped back to the duet it was nonetheless powerful as he flew through his repertoire of solo records dipping in with stories that both made us laugh and with his tributer to the recently departed legend that was Howie Pyro before dedicating ‘Broken Radio’ to our fallen brother. His introduction was heartfelt, sincere and truly emotional and it was an inspired choice to dedicate to Howie. RIP.

The evening kicked off in style with ‘Hotel Columbia’ followed by a chilling rendition of ‘Cigarettes And Violets’ and you could hear a pin drop from the packed-out audience who to be fair were a refreshing School night crowd who were respectful for Malin & Cruz and there was pretty much no chatter and very little mobile phone distractions just people taking snaps which is cool. the pair cooked up a rousing rendition of the Pogues classic ‘Fall From Grace With God’ before dipping in to the pre covid album ‘Sunset Kids’ and the beautiful ‘Room 13’. The pair were locked in and creating some majestic sounds between them as the first of the Covid ‘Sad And Beautiful’ record as ‘Crawling Back To You’ was aired as Malin said the last time he saw Tom Petty was days before he passed away it was his last ever performance. The stories were coming thick and fast and really added weight to the songs before they were played. ‘Turn Up The Mains’ rocked and Rolled even without the electric band kicking it out of the speakers.

Jesse then aired a golden oldie in the shape of ‘Wendy’ from the superb debut. Malin also alluded to a rerelease of the debut with bonus tracks etc even though One Little Indian re-issued this as a double album in 2016 I’ll happily take it with new fresh ears on some of his finest post D Generation tunes. It was then Malin told us about his time spent with Howie Pyro and his emotional recollections of their time spent in NYC and JEsses feelings when he found out he passed whilst Jesse was touring Europe. It added weight to the evening and some extra depth to an already awesome song in ‘Broken Radio’ the single that featured Springsteen which also came with a pretty humorous tale about its release.

‘She Don’t Love Me Now’ was a song I always thought was when Malin really hit the Strummer vein in feel more than anything else maybe as he was writing it Strummer tuned in his antenna from his celestial Ghetto Box and sent PMA over the ether. With time ticking on and Cruz moving from piano to guitar adding different flavours to the sweet music we were getting ‘The Year I was Born’ sounded beautiful and countrified. It was easy to get lost in the music tonight another of those “Special” Jesse Malin nights its becoming a thing.

I absolutely love his last studio album and tonight ‘State Of The Art’ never sounded so damn good and it was weird that there were only two of them on stage and no rhythm section kicking this one down the line. We had a fake end of the set before the fake encore where we’re treated to a bit of acoustic boogie as ‘Meet Me At The End Of The World’ made way for a rather splendid rendition of the Mick Jones classic ‘Stay Free’ before leaving us with ‘Solitare’ that was played to an epic respectful silence, spellbinding stuff.

These are weird times kids but it’s fantastic that we still have regular visits from artists as talented as this, who roll into town, do their thing sprinkle a bit of Rock n Roll magic, kick out the jams then get the hell out of dodge but, promise to return with a band in tow and play the whole of the debut album. Bring it on I say and I’m already counting down the days. It’ll be another emotional evening and 100% entertaining and 100% PMA paid on til the next time. Brilliant stuff, I love live music I do.

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Author: Dom ‘The Capital Offender’ Daley

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