Every once in a while i just get fed up with
the Indie Rock side of the live music world. I get sick of overly
smokey bars full of people who don't bathe or use deodorant
frequently enough for my liking, where i sit and drink too much
'cause, heck, it's cheap. I get sick of insanely late hours
and people who look down their nose at me because they know
they are so much cooler than the pudgy guy at the bar...
So i went and saw Joe Jackson at The Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre.
Where things started, and ended, at a decent time. Where people
were actually groomed, and some even had on too much perfume!
And no one was trying to "out cool" me, mostly because they
were too damned busy chatting with their friends.
I guess there is no real advantage of one crowd over the other,
except that for the cost of this Joe Jackson show i could have
spent 4 shows at The Earl, enjoying several PBR's each night.
There is, however, a real difference in musicianship. We tend
to forget that, hanging out at Indie Rock clubs, listening to
bands of college students who get up there and hammer out a
few tunes in hopes that chicks will dig them enough to make
out with them. Some might call the Indie Rock attitude "casual",
but as often as not that is a cover-up for sloppiness and a
lack of vision.
Contrast this with Joe Jackson, who has been making music since
the late 70's. The man has tons of training, and has done everything
from New Wave to Jazz to Classical. His music is precise and
planned, not a thrown together mish-mash of a few CD's he and
his buddies listened too whilest passing the bong around.
Anyway, the point of this rant is that i sometimes find professionalism
to be refreshing. And after the largely crappy Indie Rock i
have seen in the past month and a half, it was sorely needed.
There was an opener, a folkish artist: a guy named David Dean
who had an acoustic guitar he strummed as he sang. He walked
out and started his set off with Pink Moon, the Nick
Drake VolksWagen Commercial Song, but from there proceeded to
play originals. His Pink Moon was OK, his voice not being
quite delicate enough to accurately pay tribute to Drake, but
it was not horrible. His original material was okay. I did not
find the lyrics trite, nor do i think he was a fabulous poet.
Mostly i thought, "This guy is okay for an opener. But man,
the acoustic singer-songwriter schtick is so played out."
However, most people in the crowd ignored him for the most
part, but to his defense he did his best to try and get the
crowd wound up.
Oddly enough, the music that played through the sound system
after Dean was done was throbbning, club level drum n bass,
fresh off the floors at Ibiza. A very odd contrast, but i guess
that Mr. Jackson is british, so maybe they played English Club
Trash in order to make him feel at home.
After a resonable wait, Joe Jackson walked on stage alone.
He was wearing a long green sportcoat, and, surprisingly, still
had as much hair as he did in 1982. That is, when i look at
the picture on my copy of Night and Day, i see
a guy who is rapidly going bald. I expected Joe to be totally
bald now. Instead, his hairline is halfway up his head, and
the hair is thin and white, but it's still there. Good for him
-- that sort of thing doesn't run in my bloodline, but apparently
it is traumatic for people.
Anyway, Joe walked out, smiled, waved, and sat down at his
piano and started to play. He played a lovely, minimalistic
version of Stepping Out that really worked, despite the
lack of the driving bass line from the recorded version.
Then his band joined him. Like him they looked like older brits.
The guitarist played sitting in a rolling office chair, which
he spun all over the stage. (Joe later indicated that the guitarist
was recovering from a broken foot.) All of the band members
were quite competent, and the overall sound was wonderful. In
particular his bassist was very good. I wish i had caught the
guy's name, but whoever he is, he is a master of his instrument.
I expected the whole show to consist of Joe Jackson sitting
at his keyboard playing and singing, but that only filled about
2/3 of the show. The rest of the time he stood at a different
mic and sang with his band's backing. Many of these piano-less
tunes were introduced as being from "the new album", and, surprisingly,
they rocked hard. Rocked in an old punk sort of way, that is.
Which makes sense seeing that Joe Jackson released his first
album in, what, 1978? He was a contemporary of that scene, and
apparently his band were too. Anyway, this new material sounded
guite good. Good for them.
During the middle of the set the band left him alone on stage,
and Joe played a Gay Pride song that was okay. Something about,
"Don't call me fag unless you also call me friend." Good
for him. Then he played an Andy Partridge song that i didn't
recognize (not being that fmailiar with the entire XTC catalog)
but which was greeted with warm applause. He kept messing up
the verses, which would make him laugh, but he always recovered
for the chorus, something about "Being the mayor of simpletown".
The band rejoined him, and they performed a stunning version
of everyone's favorite, Is She Really Going Out With Him?,
that dragged on for a good while as Joe played with getting
the crowd to sing the chorus back at him. Everyone, even the
band, seemed to enjoy that. They also played Sunday Papers,
and a few other old tunes from back in his punk days that i
cannot remember the titles off. And everybody seemed to enjoy
In fact, the whole show was very enjoyable. Well done music
in a well air-conditioned venue. Everyone seemed to have a blast,
both the musicians and the crowd. I know i did.