Friday, April 11, 2008

Jesse Malin/De Novo Dahl; April 11, 2008; The Majestic

I had only ventured into the somewhat recently reopened Majestic twice since the dance club was reborn as a concert venue. Hoping to avoid the problems which eventually shut down its previous incarnation, they have taken to booking fairly safe acts, pop, rock and folk acts dominate the calendar while hip hop and DJ nights are kept to a minimum. For the most part I think the Majestic is overpriced, from its ticket prices to any beer that isn’t from the bargain bin (a Stella puts you out five bucks while a PBR is only $2). The previous shows I had been to, Marty Stuart and Leon Russell, were similarly pricey but I had the luck of knowing the opening bands. I thought $15 was a little high for Jesse Malin, whose greatest claims to fame in my mind were being the former lead singer of D Generation and that Ryan Adams produced his first album.

Apparently a lot of other people thought so too, because they stayed away in droves. When we came in we asked the door guy if there were a lot of people inside. He replied that it depended on what you called a lot. Truth is no one would have called this a lot, there couldn’t have been more than forty people doting the tables and bar area inside. Which was sad, because Malin put on a fairly entertaining show. Accompanied only by a keyboard player, he spent as much time talking as he did playing. His stories, while occasionally rambling, were genuine and amusing, painting a picture of someone who wasn’t afraid to let himself look bad. Many of his tales came from his childhood in Brooklyn, as a punk rock kid in a Ramones T-shirt he stood out from the kids around him causing him to get picked on a lot. Perhaps the oddest story he told was how he slammed his penis on a girl’s desk after she made fun of him in class. His rational? His mother had told him never to hit a girl.

It was actually a last minute decision to attend the show; I wasn’t a fan and I wasn’t familiar with his original material, I just felt like seeing some music. After much indecision, much of which could have been lessened by a more reasonable ticket price, I decided to check it out. The songs he had written were all quite pleasant, though none of them actually stuck with me. His choice of covers on the other hand was inspired. He told us that he had released an Internet only all-covers record, and it was obvious that every song had some significance to him. The key to a successful cover is to make the song your own- doing it exactly like the original misses the point. Malin turned most of the songs into guitar ballads, so much so that I didn’t even recognize the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young” until the chorus. The biggest surprise was the Hold Steady’s “You Can Make Him Like You,” on a night when we had planned on seeing that band in Milwaukee. Show closer Neil Young’s “Heartless” took on the feel of a campfire sing-along when he requested that we all sit on the floor with him and sing. There was nothing amazing about his set, but it was enjoyable and seeing how sparse the crowd was, I was glad we went.

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