Jesse Malin plays his music for people who don’t want to go to school

Allison Bugg

When you’re touring to promote a new album, it doesn’t hurt to put on a good show.

Jesse Malin did just that Sunday night at the Lime Spider in Akron. The talented New York City singer/songwriter played a lively 90-minute set with pianist Christine Smith.

Malin took the stage with an eager crowd applauding him. Many stood up and migrated to the front of the stage.

“Hello Akron!” he said following his first song. “It’s actually my first time in Akron and it’s good to be here.”

After being discovered by musician Ryan Adams and signed by Artemis Records, he released his first album The Fine Art of Self-Destruction in early 2003.

Malin’s stop in Akron was one of many across the country to promote his second album The Heat. His performance, therefore, included many songs from the album.

Glowing in orange spotlights, Malin’s acoustic guitar coincided dramatically with Smith’s piano. The overall sound was nothing short of inspiring as much as it was entertaining.

His stage presence was like watching a musical comedian, or perhaps, storyteller. In between songs, he amused the audience with childhood stories and explained the meanings of songs.

It’s easy to see how passionate Malin is about his music when he sings. He indulges himself in the moment with every ounce of energy, like an athlete during a competition.

Many of his songs ranged from themes like love and women to beer and city life. A song called “Wendy” was about an old girlfriend and another, “Brooklyn,” was about the New York City borough.

Although the crowd thinned as the night went on, Malin continued to entice the audience as more people danced to his rhythms. He often encouraged audience participation, too.

“This next song is dedicated to anyone who has to go to work or school tomorrow morning and really doesn’t want to,” he said. “It’s called ‘Mona Lisa’ and I want everyone to clap.”

Malin’s rendition of Neil Young’s “Helpless” was right on: his singing ability proves to be one of his most distinct characteristics, along with his percussive guitar-playing style.

His work as a lyricist is impressive and only adds to his success as a musician.

Contact local music reporter Allison Bugg at [email protected]