The threat of snow hung in the air, and that prediction had been blasted through the regional airwaves by the media weathermen. Maybe that’s why only a handful of the faithful braved the elements to share a potent dose of Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social at Jillians in downtown Albany last Tuesday night. Maybe it was the freezing temperatures. Or perhaps it was just a bad case of mid-winter blues that kept the others away.
But the fact of the matter is that some of those devoted, diehard fans in attendance would have been there in spite of hell or high water – or even some kind of cataclysmic “snowmageddon.” Those who didn’t show up missed a performance that they would have likely been talking about for many moons to come. Because it was arguably one of the best rock shows to come to town in a long while.
If you don’t quite know who Jesse Malin is and why he’s integral to the national music scene, here’s a bit of background: He fronted the hardcore band Heart Attack when he was just 13 years old. Later, he was at the helm of glam punk band D Generation for eight years. Both were seminal New York City combos who built up fanatical cult followings. More recently, he’s collaborated with such A-listers as Ryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen. And he also worked on a side project with members of Green Day.
This time out, however, he was leading the charge with the St. Marks Social, who fall somewhere in between hardcore and the roots rock of bands like the Blasters.
Taking the stage with an aura that was way beyond cool, Malin launched into his show with a feverish intensity, and the room quickly filled up with diamond-hard guitar riffs and plenty of bass ‘n’ drums thunder.
The next hour-plus was a no-holds-barred, oh-so-tasty smorgasbord of songs culled from Malin’s considerable catalog of albums, including a half dozen numbers from his latest release, “Love It To Life.”
Throughout the show, the tasteful guitar licks of Todd Youth intertwined brilliantly with Malin’s vocal howl and potent power chords. Johnny Martin’s pulsating bass lines were hard-wired to the stomping bash of drummer Ty Smith, while the keyboard forays of Derek Cruise added welcome tonal colorations and variety to the band’s overall sound. All combined, these instrumental voices added punch, power and superb dynamics to Malin’s frenzied stage presence, which brought to mind the Ramones, the Clash and even pre-stardom U2.
It wasn’t all about the go-for-the-throat, fist-pumping rock anthems, though. The band also mixed in some sensitive and riveting numbers that showcased the wide range of Malin’s vocal firepower, which navigated intimate, singer-songwriter territory as often as it reached the pinnacle of punk rock mayhem.
The next time that Malin and his wrecking crew land in Nippertown, it would be well worth your while to go see him. He may have come out of the musical linage of hardcore bands, but he’s stretching well beyond those boundaries. In the here and now, he’s a truly original voice that shines through brightly on every song.
Review by Andrzej Pilarczyk.
Photos by Andrzej Pilarczyk and Al Goldberg.