On a night when the rain held off at Meijer Gardens, the iconic rock/pop artist uncorked familiar faves and new classics for an approving audience. Review, photos, set list.
SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTO GALLERY, SET LIST
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Back in his heyday, British musician Joe Jackson distinguished himself as a truly likable musical oddity – a guy who was sort of punk, sort of new wave, sort of jazz, sort of something-else-with-a-pop-flair.
Since the late 1970s and 1980s, Jackson has even ventured into classical music, though his most recent album, 2015’s mostly overlooked “Fast Forward,” saw the keyboard player, saxophonist and singer return to his thoroughly engaging, pop-tinged rock and balladry.
For the artist’s first-ever Grand Rapids concert at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park on Friday night, that rock/pop side of the now 63-year-old keyboard player’s personality was on full display, but so was that somewhat indefinable, genre-mashing disposition.
But let’s start at the end, shall we?
The three-song encore was phenomenal.
With the weekend-starting, baby boomer audience in fully fueled, standing-and-warbling mode, Jackson and his razor-sharp bunch of associates – longtime collaborator and bassist Graham Maby, guitarist Teddy Kumpel and drummer Doug Yowell – dove happily into a blistering, uber-fun rendition of the “Peter Gunn Theme” (which Jackson called “the king of theme songs from cop shows” after encouraging fans to “dance like beatniks”), followed by the 1979 “spiv-rock” classic “On Your Radio” and, finally, a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “A Slow Song.”
It was a fitting way to close out Jackson’s 10th stop on a limited 15-date North American tour that includes stops at many cities he’s rarely played, on a night when Meijer Gardens started everything a bit early due to concerns about possible rain and storms.
(For the record, it rained well after the show was over, though it spit and sprinkled on and off at various times during the evening. It still had an effect: Although the concert was sold out, the amphitheater wasn’t at capacity due to no-shows who may have fretted about the weather.)
SOPHISTICATION, LYRICAL TWISTS AND A TOP-NOTCH BAND
That left Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Cameron Blake to open things on the big stage solo for a crowd unfamiliar with his music, surrounded by Jackson’s band equipment which was shrouded by tarps to protect it from possible raindrops.
Blake soldiered on impressively nonetheless, kicking off his half-hour set with “Rise and Shine” and really hitting his stride with the emotionally powerful songs “Detroit” (from the appropriately titled 2015 album, “Alone on the World Stage”) and “Sandtown” (from his latest album, “Fear Not”).
Jackson, meanwhile, kicked off his set in solo fashion as well, performing 1979’s “It’s Different for Girls,” before bringing band members out for the crowd-pleasing “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” (his first single) and a surprisingly muscular rendition of 1982’s “Real Men.”
There’s a sophistication, drama and lyrical twistiness to Jackson’s music that makes it intriguing and infectious whether you’re familiar with the songs or not, so the keyboard player and singer’s penchant for introducing new tunes (“Friend Better”) and those from his latest album (“A Little Smile,” “Ode to Joy”) was received extraordinarily well.
Indeed, all of it – from these unfamiliar gems to fan favorites “Sunday Papers,” “Breaking Us in Two” and “Steppin’ Out” (a dreamy version performed “without the disco beats”) – earned great, deserved ovations, buoyed by Kumpel’s slick guitar leads, Maby’s adroit bass playing and Yowell’s dynamic drumming.
Through it all, Jackson came across as affable, engaging but not overly demonstrative performer, a guy who clearly still enjoys his craft and whose voice doesn’t seem to have aged one iota.
And if his Grand Rapids debut was many decades overdue, it was satisfying nonetheless.
PHOTO GALLERY: Joe Jackson, Cameron Blake at Meijer Gardens
Photos by Jamie Geysbeek
SET LIST: Joe Jackson at Meijer Gardens
Courtesy of setlist.fm
1. It’s Different for Girls
2. Is She Really Going Out With Him?
3. You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)
4. A Little Smile
5. Fabulously Absolute
6. Be My Number Two
7. Breaking Us in Two
8. Friend Better
9. Another World
10. Sunday Papers
11. Ode to Joy
12. Steppin’ Out
13. Peter Gunn (Henry Mancini cover)
14. On Your Radio
15. A Slow Song
Copyright 2018, Spins on Music LLC