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Live Reviews

The J. Geils Band: Westbury, NY, September 12, 2012

By Published: October 6, 2012
The concert was as much performance as it was a chance for Wolf to play musicologist and talk about his Bronx roots. He punctuated his between-song banter with nuggets that included, "I was born in the Bronx, where we had a thing called doo-wop. My sister, who is here, took me to my first show. We all congregated at Slim's Records in the Times Square subway station to buy our doo-wop records. This is going out to Dion, who came from the neighborhood. This one is called "I Do." The cover of The Marvelows only U.S. hit (which originally appeared on the band's live 1982 EMI album, Showtime) was nothing less than inspired.

The show continued with "Just Can't Wait," which Wolf stated was from "I can't remember which album." The musical tour of the J. Geils canon continued with "One Last Kiss" and another of Wolf's patented scats, which ended with the phrase, "we are all living on borrowed time." Of course, the next song was the ballad "On Borrowed Time." He and the band then bounded into "Surrender" from Monkey Island (Atlantic, 1977) with its lyric:


Give up your heart


Don't take my heart"

As the show reached the home stretch, Wolf and company broke out the most radio-friendly of its songs. "Freeze-Frame," from the 1981 EMI album of the same name, was introduced with the stinging epitaph, "Everybody remembers MTV—it was a blessing and a curse." The song itself, which Wolf has arguably felt was more of a curse, had them dancing in the aisles. They stayed right where they were, singing and dancing along to "Detroit Breakdown," with its Motor City-shakedown rhyming scheme. The massive hit "Centerfold," followed, although sadly, the sound system got a little wonky during the intro. However, the song, which spent six weeks at the top of the charts, still managed to whip the audience into a near-frenzy. Next up was "Love Stinks" the Top-40 Billboard hit and rant about unrequited love.

Appropriately, the next song was "Looking For a Love," originally recorded by the Valentinos (featuring Bobby Womack) as a much more laid-back soul offering. The J. Geils Band version that appeared on The Morning After (Atlantic, 1971) was reworked into a much faster rave-up. The live version at Westbury had even more energy, so much so that the mid-sized arena literally shook and rocked to the music.

The band then made certain to pay attention to its roots with the Juke Joint Jimmy composition, "Whammer Jammer," (another from its second album The Morning After) on which Magic Dick blows an amazing harp (which Wolf later called "the Mississippi saxophone").

The band left the stage and soon returned for the encores. Wolf began by stating, "Thank you so much! We'd like to play all might, but we've got to try to fit a few more in before curfew." He then introduced the next song with an extended scat that ended with "I musta, I said I musta, I musta got lost." The high energy version of "Must Of Got Lost" from Nightmares...and Other Tales from the Vinyl Jungle (Atlantic, 1974) kept the crowd on its feet, as did the stomping blues/soul cover of The Tremeloes' "(Ain't Nothin' But A) House Party" from Bloodshot (Atlantic, 1973).

The finale was a cover of "Land of 1,000 Dances," which some members of the audience incorrectly identified as a Larry Williams song with a similar backbeat. At the end of the show the entire band, including the Uptown Horns and Geilettes, came out onstage, joined hands, bowed, and soaked in the adulation from the adoring crowd. When the lights finally came up, exhausted audience members made their way to the merchandise stand to gobble up the band's tour t-shirts and out into the warm night.

Though eligible by virtue of the fact that its first recording was released over twenty-five years ago (the J. Geils Band's eponymously titled Atlantic Records debut was released in 1970), it is a wonder that a group that plays with such abandon and precision has not yet been inducted into The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Hopefully, that slight will soon be rectified.

Additional Article Contributions & Photo Credit
Christine Connallon

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