Remember that show on VH1 called "Storytellers"? Famous musicians would play an intimate gig and tell stories. Normally they'd talk about how they came up with the idea for a certain song, but sometimes they'd just ramble on about some guy they met on the subway, or a funny thing that happened to them in junior high. Well, if you've never seen Jesse Malin before, just close your eyes, think of one of those "Storytellers "episodes, and you'll get a picture of what it's like to see this guy play a show.
In the last few months, Jesse Malin has visited Chicago three times. First, he played an opening slot on Ryan Adams' most recent tour. Armed with only a single acoustic guitar, Malin captivated the 2000+ audience in a setting that would make a lesser musician cringe. Shortly thereafter, Malin played a headlining gig at the small North West-side bar The Double Door. This time he had a full band and took full advantage, playing a kick-ass, high energy rock & roll set. I actually skipped out of Q101's Christmas bash a tad early to make sure I made it to see Jesse in time. I was more than glad I did. His cover of Jim Croche's "Operator" and the two songs he sang standing on the bar were reason enough for me.
Wednesday night, Jesse Malin was back in Chicago... again. This time, he stopped by the very intimate neighborhood bar Schubas with only a keyboard player to back him up and, as always, his spirits were high. Malin has been playing in bands since his teens and now, as a savvy live veteran, it seems he's as comfortable on stage as he his curled up in his bed with his favorite PJs on. His connection with the crowd is so strong that it's almost as if he's playing a show in each crowd members' living room. Even in the massive Riviera theater, he talked to the crowd, telling stories like we where his best friends. Wednesday's show was no different. As he ran through songs from his two Artemis releases, The Fine Art Of Self Destruction and The Heat, Malin took time out to tell stories about how a slum lord bought out the building he was living in and paid him about 30 grand to move out. Malin then took that money to pay off some debts and used the rest to pay for about five days worth of studio time. Luckily, his friend Ryan (Adams) agreed to join him in the studio to produce it... for free. That, in his own words, was how The Fine Art Of Self Destruction came into being. There were more, but reading about them just doesn't do his stories justice.
If you ever have the opportunity to catch Jesse Malin in action, do it. Whether it's with a full band, flying solo, or with a single backing musician, a Jesse Malin show is a guaranteed good time for fans of great stories and even better songs.
Photos by: Myranda Zarlengo-Vargas