Under a sky with an imposing full moon, the Jesse Kinch Returns concert offers more than just music—the gratitude and love from this talented artist are palpable at Long Island University’s Krasnoff Theater. A version of Jesse’s own Divine Comedy story and his triumph over obstacles rise to mind. I recall inviting him to be a celebrity judge for the charity fundraisers, talent shows our high school club organized. Even in our final talent show in 2015, after his winning the 2014 nationwide talent competition Rising Star and achieving national recognition, Jesse agreed to attend as celebrity judge.
The next several years brought whirlwind industry experiences for Jesse: a recording contract from which he parted ways due to creative differences, performing at festivals and venues across the country and in the UK, sold-out shows in New York City, Nashville, several television performances and a 2018 debut album release, I’m Not Like Everybody Else, more performances in 2019 until COVID cut life’s rhythms.
In January 2021, Jesse’s life changed forever. Jesse, nervous and hurried, approached his father saying he had no feeling in his right hand and arm. His fingers knotted, and he collapsed unconscious and unresponsive as the emergency worsened. Rushed to the hospital, Jesse stabilized and regained consciousness after 45 minutes. An emergency MRI revealed a large brain tumor on his left side which oncologists confirmed controlled fine coordination of right-hand movement and singing. That diagnosis led to more intensive testing, surgery, and long struggles through radiation, chemotherapy, and neurotherapy at NYU/Perlmutter Cancer Center. Jesse’s journey to his 2022 re-entry concert seems to be his own story of Inferno and Purgatory worthy even of Dante’s attention.
Jesse’s official return was this summer with a powerful and emotional performance of his original song How Do I Reach You as a guest of Josh Groban (host of 2014 Rising Star) during his July 8th concert at Northwell Jones Beach Theater, Long Island, New York.
Tonight onstage, Jesse’s as soft-spoken, genial, and relaxed as ever, expressing gratitude to all for supporting and attending this return concert. He invites a gentleman from the audience onstage as he explains how he “made a deal” with Dr. Todd Carpenter, his Radiation Oncologist and an occasional bass guitarist. This smiling bass player accepts the guitar Jesse hands him to play and accompanies the band in musical coordination of a miraculous achievement—It’s an onstage moment of grateful reciprocity.
In the audience, I notice the attendees—young, and those not-so-young, many hospital staff—first-responders always present, high-school classmates and personnel. Family friends, neighbors, and fans of all backgrounds, as varied as their attire—T-shirts, jeans, black leather biker jackets, army fatigues, maxi-dresses, tattoos, and tennis bracelets—are all in attendance. His appeal is as universal as his original ballad, How Do I Reach You (The Last Veil), and hints at the passion of Michael Bolton, or Andrea Bocelli, both models of international musical excellence.
At the end of the evening, people leave the theater, exchange smiles, speak with each other, and interact with their souls uplifted. In this transformative moment, the lyrics to Jesse’s ballad seem to move something in tonight’s concert attendees: Sometimes in life through sorrow and pain, We light the fire to love again—I believe in tomorrow, Release all your sorrow, So now, have I reached you? The affirmative answer understood through this last night of these 2022 Perseid meteor showers is the ascent of Jesse Kinch, this Rising Star.