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Starring Jesse Malin and Marah/The Stone Pony, Asbury Park, N.J./Dec. 18, 2010

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The event included a charity toy drive, but the biggest gift of all was a start-to-finish night of good music headlined by Jesse Malin & the St. Marks Social.
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Following a spirited performance by New Jersey’s own Outside the Box that included a fun version of Tom Petty‘s “Christmas All Over Again,” singer/songwriter Charlie Mars played a four-song solo acoustic set. Prior to each tune, the personable Mars told brief stories that had the audience laughing, and he also gave well-received sing-along instructions before performing “Meet Me By the Backdoor” and “Listen to the Darkside,” two of the best songs on his latest album, Like a Bird, Like a Plane.
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Nicole Atkins, who grew up not far from The Stone Pony, also played a solo acoustic set, which was highlighted by the opening “Maybe Tonight” (from the 2007 album Neptune City) and a country-ish version of “Cry, Cry, Cry” (a more funky version will be included on her new album, Mondo Amore, due in January).
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Led by a Santa Claus-hatted (and slightly under the weather) Dave Bielanko, Marah showed the most holiday spirit, mixing in ragged versions of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “A Holly Jolly Christmas” into its lively set.
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Malin was equal parts raconteur and rocker, telling Bruce Springsteen-length tales and playing choice songs from his various solo albums, as well as a stomping cover of John Lennon‘s “Instant Karma.”

— Review and photos by Chris M. Junior