Leeds are a subdued bunch tonight in the music hall. You could hear a pin drop while Matthew Ryan takes to the stage to perform his beautiful ditties. Having toured with the like of Lucinda Williams, The Gaslight Anthem, The Menzingers, Cheap Girls and Paul Weller, this guy from Pennsylvania has a great musical history, having also had music on the shows One Tree Hill, Dawsons Creek and House, to name a few. His songs are about the fear of getting grey hair, loss, love all sang in his whispery rasp.
He has nervous giggles between songs as he tries to overcome how quiet the crowd are. It is not like they are not listening to him, they are doing, maybe a little too intently! He compares us to American crowds, where he says there would most likely be a brawl happening at this point! With the dim lighting in there he said we could be cardboard cut outs for all he knows! The crowd do give his great applause after every song, as he does deserve. On the darkness note, maybe a little light on the merch area would be great, you can't see to negotiate the steps or indeed see what to purchase. The poor merch person had to light up the goods with their phone while we looked!
Jesse Malin takes to the stage on this warm summers day in full jacket and hat. The lights are still pretty dim on stage though. He is joined by a full backing band with new members since his last time at this venue. He plays a few numbers before starting to converse with the crowd, as once Jesse starts on with his interesting tales, and he has many, we are in for a treat. Its not long before the upbeat tune 'Wendy' gets the crowd moving and singing. His reach transcends age groups as there are young adults and older people here all enjoying his work.
He has just toured after supporting old friends Green Day at their Hyde Park mega gig the week before. He mentions the first time he played here was with his old band D Generation, supporting Green Day on their 'Insomniac' tour at Leeds T&C (Now 02 Academy) in 1998. I remember it well, and have been a fan of his music ever since. His work ethos just adds to this, aside from his solo work he owns Bowery Electric venue in New York, fundraising for roadie Natalie a new wheelchair with Positive Panther (some of the thoughtful crowd are wearing the tshirts sold to raise funds), has judged in the Independent Music Awards, appeared on the 1999 Scorsese film 'Bringing Out The Dead' and associate produced with Bad Brains. Lets not forget his duet with Bruce Springsteen and Ryan Adams and all after started in the hardcore band 'Heart Attack when he was just 12. A living musical underground rock legend.
It is his fine collection of songs like 'Hotel Columbia', 'Black Haired Girl', 'Afterglow' fit in with covers like The Clashes 'Rudy Can't Fail', Lou Reed's 'Sally Can't Dance' and newer tracks like latest album title 'Outsiders' and 'You Know It's Dark When Atheists Start To Pray'. 'London Rain' is for Natalie. 'Going Out West' is a crowd request and the harmonious 'Brooklyn' delivers some crowd stomping to the beat, as they are now making noise. There's tales of meeting Gorgol Bordello's Eugene Hütz in Moscow on a visit to Russia where he was playing on the street for 'All The Way To Moscow'. It's humbling to hear 'The Heat' was written whilst touring 'The Fine Are Of Self Destruction' in Europe.
Jesse isn't one to stay on stage all night, as he praises his backing band, including the occasional brass section, and leaves them to it while he jumps into the crowd a couple of times, a Jesse Special. The jacket is off by this point. Be sure to catch this hardworking musical storytelling wonder next time, you'll soon be singing along.