Friday, December 19, 2014

The J. Geils Band at Madison Square Garden

In the mid 1960s, the J. Geils Blues Band was an acoustic blues trio featuring John Geils (vocals, slide guitar), Danny "Dr. Funk" Klein (standup bass) and Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz (harmonica). The band found a comfortable niche within the folk music circuit in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Peter Blankenfeld, better known as Peter Wolf, was a radio disc jockey and sang in the Hallucinations, a soul group that included Stephen Bladd on drums. The two entities merged as the J. Geils Band in 1967 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and added keyboardist Seth Justman in 1969. The band attracted attention for its innovative use of the harmonica as a lead instrument. At first playing soul and blues covers, Wolf and Justman began writing original songs that kept the party feeling going. The band earned a following throughout the 1970s and hit commercially via MTV in the early 1980s with the humorous "Love Stinks", "Centerfold" and "Freeze Frame." Wolf left the group in 1983 citing artistic differences and the group disbanded in 1985. The J. Geils Band began a series of reunions in 1999 and presently consists of Wolf, Dick, Justman and Klein with hired musicians and backup vocalists; Geils himself is not in the J. Geils Band and unsuccessfully sued to prevent the group from using his name.

Opening for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band at Madison Square Garden tonight, the J. Geils Band had a rushed 45 minutes to do what the band has always done -- start the party hardy. Fronted by the animated, fast-talking Wolf, the J. Geils Band led a strong and rowdy 45-minute set, playing with explosive energy from start to finish. With no fills and no frills, the band plowed through 11 hard, sweaty rock and soul songs that included "Give It to Me", "Centerfold", "Detroit Breakdown", "Must of Got Lost", "Love Stinks", "Lookin' for a Love", "Whammer Jammer" and ended appropriately with "(Ain't Nothin' But a) House Party." Although more than 30 years have passed since the songs were first recorded, the J. Geils Band put so much fresh gusto and drive into the set that it elicited several eruptions of cheers from enthusiastic Seger fans. Classic rock and roll songs never get old, and the J. Geils Band's timeless performance brought back the blast from the past that made it fun.

Visit the J. Geils Band at