Jesse Malin & The St. Marks Social performing The Fine Art of Self Destruction @ King Tut’s, Glasgow

Every time I see Jesse Malin live I find myself surprised at just how good he is.  This guy, particularly with the backing of his new band The St. Marks Social, is an awesome performer.  He is a charismatic and funny front man who wears his heart and his musical influences on his sleeve, supported by a proper old-fashioned, in your face, loud rock ‘n’ roll band.

Marking the tenth anniversary of the UK release of Jesse’s debut solo album The Fine Art of Self Destruction the band arrived in Glasgow to perform the album in full in front of a sold out King Tut’s.  The first venue to sell out on the Fine Art tour – Glasgow loves Jesse Malin.

I’ve often alluded to my belief on here that Malin isn’t a great songwriter.  His lyrics sometimes feel like they have been stuck together for the sake of rhyming.  And although he writes some infectious rock tunes, it is his songwriting which probably prevents him from being held in the same regard as his friend Ryan Adams or fellow tri-state “new Bruce Springsteen” The Gaslight Anthem.

But that’s what makes his live set all the more enjoyable.  It is fair to say that the album format maybe doesn’t do Jesse any justice, because songs like Wendy and Brooklyn are transformed into something quite special on stage.

The sight of Malin commanding the audience to sit on the floor during Solitaire whilst he steps off stage and sits in the middle of the crowd is always something to behold.  As are the many humorous and quirky stories told between songs.

A balls-out rock performance concluded with a tremendous cover of John Lennon’s best song.  No, not Imagine, but Instant Karma.  It felt like the ideal way to end the night.

An exceptional night in the presence of an outstanding rock ‘n’ roll band.  The Fine Art of Self Destruction has never sounded better.

Okkervil River @ Classic Grand, Glasgow

It’s interesting to observe the lanky, bearded and bespectacled front-man of Okkervil Rivver Will Sheff as a near two hour set progresses.  He strides on to the stage dressed suavely in a smart tan suit.  A handful of songs into a set which was heavy with tracks from the band’s latest album I Am Very Far and punctuated songs from an impressive back catalogue, the suit jacket was shed.  Before long the waistcoat went and, when things got really sweaty, the glasses were removed too.  By the time the thumping encore came the suave man in a suit had become a sweat-soaked man in a t-shirt.

The trouble with playing a gig in a venue which becomes a club at night is that curfews tend to restrict the set to a 10pm finish, otherwise you get the impression that Okkervil River could comfortably have played at least another half an hour.  As a result what they produced was a high energy set where the songs kept coming at a searing pace, to the delight of an appreciative audience.

The set built towards a climactic conclusion with Unless It’s Kicks coming off a performance which borrowed from areas of the band’s past as diverse as 2003’s It Ends With a Fall, the even earlier Westfall – which saw Will Sheff dust down the harmonica – and more recent favourites Lost Coastlines, Rider and Your Past Life as a Blast.

A thoroughly enjoyable night with a band who know how to entertain.