JESSE MALIN, Don DiLego, Trapper Schoepp, @Institute Temple, Birmingham 18/2/16


The European tour starts here. And there’s no wifi on the bus

It takes real balls to get up onstage with just an acoustic guitar. Surely, it’s one of the bravest things you can possibly do in music? It takes skill to match to get it right and Trapper Schoepp not only has the best name in music, he can pull off the feat of being spot on. His simple tales, “Ogallala” concerns him being unable to get to a gig due to weather, have an universal quality and a real charm. His final song is one of the traditional staples of the solo acoustic artist. “Talking Girlfriend Blues” drinks from the same well as every artist from Bob Dylan to Billy Bragg and does it superbly.

Don DiLego is the busiest man in here tonight, not only is performing bass duties with Jesse Malin (who’s albums he also produces) he’s here tonight with his own business to take care of. With an extensive career as a solo artist, this is his first band show in Europe and there seems to be a grain of truth here when he says: “so boys, are you ready to rehearse?” He’s thrown another curveball by not sticking to the setlist, but no matter, the quality of songs like “Falling Into Space” and “Wish For Calm” shines through. There’s an airing too for his new single “Drive Like Pirates” and a well conceived cover of Springsteen’s Classic “State Trooper ” during a thoroughly entertaining set.

It’s easy to forget just how many solo albums Jesse Malin has released. He has, rather like his friend Ryan Adams, the ability to – rather like the old style singer songwriters – to stick out an album a year, last year for example there was two, it’s been, as he puts it, “a mad couple of years”.

That plethora of styles is reflected to a large extent reflected in a near 90 minute set that veers from one thing to another often at breakneck speed. Beginning with the slow building “Brooklyn” from his debut – staggeringly now getting on for 16 years old – it moves on the darkly pulsing “Boots Of Immigration” from one of those new albums, and to the out and out rock of “Hotel Columbia” even before a pause for breath.

A body of work that extensive affords an artist the chance to pick and choose, and noticeably there’s nothing here from “Glitter In The Gutter” his brilliant 2007 record, but there is a sassy and slinky “She Don’t Love Me Now”. One of a few to use horns very cleverly, it is a real highlight here along with “Whitestone City Limits” from the most recent “Outsiders” opus, which is a heads down screecher of a thing in this setting.

With a re-released version of the debut out, there’s a smattering of its number to prove why it was such a fabulous record, which “Almost Grown” and “Wendy” do most admirably, while the seldom played “The Archer” changes things up yet again.

There’s a couple of covers in the set too, Teenage Fanclub’s “What You Do To Me” is the pick, and they return for an encore (with mock indignation Malin does so by suggesting he doesn’t do them, “I’m an indie artist from downtown New York”, he jokes) with a rendition of The Clash’s “Rudy Can’t Fail.”

Malin is a man who enjoys telling stores onstage, and there a couple of lengthy ones here, along with the moan that he can’t watch the new tv series Vinyl as the Tour Bus smells of BO but has no wifi. But right at the end he says something short and on point. “When you boil it down”, he suggests “it’s all rock n roll.”

And sometimes it really just that simple.

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