Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Joe Jackson at the Town Hall

David Jackson was born in Burton-on-Trent, England, but grew up in the South Coast naval port city of Portsmouth.  A skinny, asthmatic kid, he loved books and originally wanted to be a writer.  At age 11, however, he joined a school violin class in order to escape gym class. Jackson soon switched to piano, mainly because of his new ambition: to be a composer. He began playing in bars at the age of 16 and won a scholarship to study musical composition at London's Royal Academy of Music. During this time, he played in various pop and cabaret bands and was given the new name Joe Jackson, the nickname based on his perceived resemblance to the puppet character Joe 90. He recorded his early albums under the name the Joe Jackson Band beginning in 1979, which attracted punk rock audiences, but Jackson quickly moved onto other genres. With an eclectic catalogue that includes punk, reggae, swing, Latin, jazz, classical and pop albums, Jackson released his 20th and most recent album, Fast Forward, on October 2, 2015. After living in New York from 1984 to 2006, Jackson now lives in Berlin, Germany.

At the Town Hall tonight, Joe Jackson was his own opening act, performing five songs solo on the piano before bringing the band on stage with him. He opened with a sparse, emotive rendition of 1979's "It's Different for Girls" and concluded this mini-set with a cover of the Beatles' "Girl" and the title track of his current album. The band members then subtly walked on one by one, starting with longtime bassist Graham Maby thumping out the recognizable bass line to "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" Songs that Jackson popularized decades ago, including "Real Men", "You Can't Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)", "Chinatown", "Sunday Papers" and "Steppin' Out" were all reworked as singer-songwriter pieces, rocking heavier as the show progressed thanks to stinging guitar work from Teddy Kumpel and driving percussion from drummer Doug Yowell. Jackson and band also rocked a season-appropriate cover of David Bowie's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" and began his three encores with a cover of Television's "See No Evil."  The concert ended with the band playing "A Slow Song," during which the musicians left the stage one by one, leaving Jackson to conclude the show much like he started it, alone at the piano. From elegant piano ballads to racing rockers, the 61-year-old Jackson was in fine voice, and his set was a class act.

Visit Joe Jackson at www.joejackson.com.