January 15, 2015 J. Geils Band still rockin NYCB Theater at Westbury, NY 12-16-14
It can be argued that no one can keep a hard working Rock-N-Roll band down. Formed nearly five decades ago, New England’s The J. Geils Band is living proof of such, as they have sustained a variety of changes over the course of their career spanning fourteen studio albums and tireless touring. After a fourteen year absence, in 1999 an exciting thirteen-date reunion took place, and thankfully for fans, several reunions have taken place since. Marching onward, the band has risen above internal conflicts with founding guitarist J. Geils, in 2012 employing guitarists Duke Levine and Kevin Barry in Geils’ stead who joined frontman Peter Wolf, bassist Danny Klein, keyboardist Seth Justman, harmonica player Magic Dick, and drummer Tom Arey. Having not partaken in any extensive touring since 2012, in 2014 the band embarked on a lengthy tour with Rock legend Bob Seger. Just two days prior to their scheduled appearance at Madison Square Garden in NYC, on Tuesday December 16th, The J. Geils Band took a detour from supporting Bob Seger and visited Long Island, appearing as headliners at the NYCB Theater at Westbury. Fans gathered early to find their seats and revisit some of their favorite tunes during this rare and intriguing appearance.
Opening up the night was comedian Rodney Laney. A professional stand-up comedian since 1997, Laney has performed at venues across the nation. He has also done extensive television work as both a writer and a comedian, working with stations ranging from Comedy Central, to HBO, to the BBC. The crowd at NYCB Theater at Westbury, anxious to hear music, was, on a whole, receptive to the comic styling of Laney as he battled through some heckling. Taking the experience back to the days when comedians did in fact open for Rock bands regularly on tours, Laney was a capable comedian with a lot to offer. Perhaps this old school combination will become a norm again, and concert goers will learn to appreciate the colorful balance of music and comedy more. With that said, do not miss this excellent showman.
With fans ready to Rock, drinks were flowing and the overall vibe felt more like a weekend party then a week night. The band came out and immediately started playing a bluesy-jam, heavy on the harmonica, to warm up the crowd, segueing into the first song of the night, “Sno-cone.” Wolf was a force, his tall form clad in shimmering black, his wild hair just barely tamed by a hat. The charismatic singer strode across the stage throughout the performance, at sixty-eight years old not showing even a hint of the sedation that typically accompanies age. Two female backup singers lent their smooth, soulful vocals to the mix, creating a pleasant contrast to Wolf’s frenetic energy, while the band provided steady support through songs like “Just Can’t Wait” and early single “Give It To Me.”
The songs — and with a setlist of twenty-three and a performance lasting over two hours, there were many– were just as clean as the original studio recordings, and the band took opportunities to solo and show off their chops without being distracting. Naturally the crowd went wild when the band played hits “Centerfold” and “Freeze Frame,” but “Detroit Breakdown” was the song that really allowed the musicians to showcase their talent. Even behind the keyboards, Justman displayed great showmanship, as did Magic Dick with his trademark harmonica sounds. In addition to their own hits, the band also played a few covers including “First I Look at the Purse,” by The Contours and “Where Did Our Love Go,” by The Supremes, among others.
With obvious love for the fans, Wolf offered a great deal of audience interaction. Toward the middle of the show during “Love Stinks,” a woman appeared from backstage and handed a bouquet of roses to Wolf, who, in turn, distributed the flowers to female audience members. Featuring as the theme song for the 1999 comedy by the same name, the song was a treat for long-time fans. In fact, J Geils band is no stranger to soundtracks, and some of the most hardcore fans in the crowd were caught whispering that they would love to hear the band perform the title track from the 1985 Vampire classic Fright Night. Perhaps next time. Keeping the energy extremely high through the final song, “Must of Got Lost,” Wolf was high-fiving audience members and thanking them for their attendance.
Even though they have not released an album in thirty years, The J. Geils Band exhibits the same enthusiasm that any band would in its prime years. Fans are certainly grateful to see them actively on the road, and hopefully they keep touring for many years to come. They will be continuing to tour as the opening act for Bob Seger through the end of January 2015, so check them out before it is too late.