Despite not having a new album to plug, Joe Jackson spent three weeks last month touring the U.S., and whipping a handful of new tracks into shape, which should appear on a forthcoming (as-yet-untitle
Despite not having a new album to plug, Joe Jackson spent three weeks last month touring the U.S., and whipping a handful of new tracks into shape, which should appear on a forthcoming (as-yet-untitled) album. And instead of employing a full-on band or doing a one-man show, Jackson opted for something in the middle -- a piano-driven, guitar-less trio with original Joe Jackson Band bassist Graham Maby and drummer Dave Noughton.
Borrowing a page from the Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense" handbook, Jackson opened the show solo with renditions of "Home Town" and "Steppin' Out," before Maby joined in, and then finally, Houghton a song later. Jackson sat behind a black piano on the left, Maby was in the middle (alternating between standing and sitting on a stool) and Houghton played an electronic drum kit on the right.
Although the majority of the set list was comprised of tracks well known to the audience (who often shouted song requests and other one-liners between songs), two fine new tracks made their appearance in the set. "Too Tough" and "Citizen Sane" were both uptempo in in the same vein of Jackson's classic "Look Sharp!" and "I'm the Man" period. Other new tracks, such as "Drunk Song," were much more serene, while "Invisible Man" fell somewhere between the two styles.
The crowd was treated to a healthy helping of Jackson's classic "Night and Day" album (which made sense, since the recording was also completely guitar-less), including such standouts as "Another World." Another track from that album, "Real Men," was prefaced by Jackson's admission of how it always takes him back to New York circa 1982 (and in particular, Soho, where the song was recorded), and how he missed the NYC of old.
Other standouts included a cover of Frank Zappa's "Dirty Love," Jackson's first-ever hit, "Is She Really Going Out With Him" (which included the now-expected "Look over there/Where?" call-and-response between he and the crowd) and an explosive reading of "Take It Like a Man" from Jackson's underrated 2003 release, "Volume 4."
But it turned out Jackson saved the very best for last, as he closed the set with a simply beautiful rendition of "A Slow Song," the slowly building closer from "Night and Day." Jackson and company exited in a similar manner as they arrived -- Houghton left the stage mid-song and Maby stuck around for a spell longer, before all that remained was Jackson by himself at the piano, until exiting himself to wild applause.
With the new songs showing great promise and Jackson-Maby-Houghton sounding as splendid as ever, one would hope Jackson enlists the aid of his old pals when the time comes to document these tunes on record.
The evening was opened by a set from singer/guitarist/keyboardist Eric Hutchinson. Whenever an opening act can keep the audience on his side, it's always a victory, and Hutchinson did so with witty stage banter and unexpected/amusing cover songs. As evidenced by such originals as "All Over Now," Hutchinson's sound brought to mind Dave Matthews (if the latter was all by his lonesome) at times. With a major-label debut forthcoming from Maverick Records, Hutchinson should have no problem winning over admirers of both Matthews and Ben Folds.