Joe Jackson – An Evening At the Rebecca Cohn

Posted: 07/16/2018 in Uncategorized

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After the monumental, stadium rock I witnessed this past week, the more understated pop stylings of legendary Joe Jackson made for a  refreshing evening. Opening with the classics, Jackson demonstrated quite quickly that he is still a terrific showman and most importantly a formidable musician. As both a band leader and pianist, he is second to none. Bringing a jazz infused, soulful performance with an exceedingly tight bunch of musicians, Jackson demonstrated that sometimes less is more.

“Is She Really Going Out With Him” came far earlier than one would expect, as the second song.  Audience participation was ample. For over 40 years, Jackson has been difficult to categorise. His appreciation for Gershwin, noting the man’s ability to stay contemporary but still present a diverse sound, reflects his own musical restlessness. He is still sharp, somewhat acerbic yet gracious. He was genuinely appreciative that in his first visit to Nova Scotia he was playing to a sold out house. “You Can’t Get What You Want (Til You Know What You’ve Got)” followed with a tight drum beat, solid bass…actually solid bass throughout the evening. The bassist (Graham Maby) was world class and both Jackson and the audience duly acknowledged this. Drumming (Dave Houghton) was tight, fast, rhythmic and jazz infused. The guitarist (Gary Sanford) brought the music together with an understated yet crisp flow.

There were no amateurs here. Jackson presented 5 new songs which played remarkably well and no less remarkable was how good these tracks were. “Alchemy”, “Fool”, with its mixed musical influences,  and “A Little Smile” stood out. A moment of artistic flair later ensued in which all the band members paused perfectly still in tandem. You had to see it but trust me…it was cool.

“Breaking Us In Two” was as powerful  now as it was decades ago despite some polish and refinement. With Jackson there is always an edge beneath and this is what makes him one of the greats. “Real Men” was again solidly delivered. Jackson acknowledged at this point of his career, he and his band wanted to travel to places they hadn’t been and play new music while doing so. The audience was immediately receptive which pushed back a proper energy bolstering the quartet with due encouragement and appreciation.

Jackson’s capping off the evening with a cover of  Television’s “Hear No Evil” gave the listener a bit of insight into what makes him tick and all members of the band brought new life to this song…making it better honestly. The finale was as expected “Stepping Out” but even here Jackson put some refined touches, modifying the tone of the song by lowering its tempo. Allowing each member of the group to fade out, playing themselves away, was classy and returned the stage to how it began, with a sole entity playing a beautiful melody on piano.

Jackson brought an element of old style cabaret with aspects of modern pop and presented an excellent evening, managing even to remind us that at 63 years of age, his best years might not be behind him. Joe Jackson and crew were simply outstanding and well worth your time.

 

 

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