Join The Boys

I posted this to the Joe Jackson Mailing List after seeing the Joe Jackson Band on 27 March, 2003.
"We'll be dancing in the floodlights
Second to none, not even on a bad night."
-- Joan Armatrading, "Join The Boys"
Seeing the Joe Jackson Band last night at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO put me in mind of this song by Joan Armatrading (anybody remember the tune she and Joe did together?) I got the sense it was a bit of an off night for Joe -- he flubbed the lyrics to a number of songs, and was occasionally seen shaking his head or hiding his face (smiling all the while) in embarrassment. (For that matter, I'd caught a cold that day, so it was a bit of an off night for me as well.) Of course, an off night for Joe Jackson is still pretty damn hot, and despite a few missteps here and there, last night's show was still a great one. The following isn't a review, but rather just some scattered memories from the show.

I met some friends for dinner at a little restaurant next door to the club, and we probably got in the door about 7:15. The Fox is a pretty small place, and the sides fill up first, since that's where all the seating is. The floor is open, and was still pretty uncrowded when we arrived. We claimed our spot, about six feet from the stage. Woo! Of course, the floor got more packed as time went on, and by the time Mary Lee's Corvette took the stage, there was only room to sway back and forth a bit, which I certainly did during their set. In general, I'm not a big fan of opening acts, but I thought this band wasn't bad. Mary's voice is a bit reminiscent of Lucinda Williams, and her music is too, with a bit of the Cowboy Junkies thrown in there. She sang a couple of songs from "Blood On The Tracks", which I liked -- can't go wrong with good material -- and a couple of her own pieces were pretty strong too, such as "Give It To The Needy" and "Nothing From You." (I'm just guessing at the titles here.) Her band did their part too, with a young hipster-dude on drums and a comical bass player with looks in the Elliot Gould/Eric Bogosian/Lou Reed mold who strode around the stage mugging while Mary sang.

At one point, Mary was introducing a song, saying "Have you ever wanted something so badly that you didn't have, that you--" at this point somebody in the audience shouted "JOE JACKSON!", which I thought was pretty tacky. She took it in good humor, though, and just said "He'll be out soon -- I love you too." That got the crowd on her side even more.

Joe and the band came onstage a little while later, to the enthusiastic approval of the crowd. Joe introduced the band right away (the first time of many he would do so that night), and they went straight into "One More Time." After that, Joe talked a bit about the new album, and played "Take It Like A Man" and "Awkward Age". The crowd seemed to take to the new songs -- there was an especially warm response to that first piano break in "Take It", probably because that was Joe's first time that night sitting down at the piano. Other highlights of that first set:

I was really happy with Joe's solo set, since Night And Day is one of my favorite albums and this set really featured it. When it came time to do his cover, though, he began to consider what song he would do, and had just about decided to do one he'd never done before, when an excess of stupid shouts from the crowd ("Battleground!" goes one guy. Did you not hear him just say he was going to do someone else's song?) helped him decide to scotch the idea at the last minute. Sigh. Oh well, his version of "Mayor Of Simpleton" is gorgeous! Otherwise, Joe took the shouts of the crowd in stride, more or less, especially for him. At one point during the solo set, he was deciding what to play, and somebody shouted out "Beat Crazy!", to which he said "Yes, yes, we'll get to all your requests. Later." This is about the mellowest response I've ever seen Joe have to audience numbskulls.

The second set was smokin'! After "It's Different For Girls" (with a very nice transition between guitar and piano), it was pretty much all uptempo songs, either rockers ("Fairy Dust", "Sunday Papers") or ska numbers ("Beat Crazy", "Thugs R Us"), culminating in an absolutely frenetic "Got The Time." Whew!

Finally the encore, which, like the rest of the show, did not disappoint. I was thrilled to hear this band's version of "Blaze Of Glory" -- I think it even transcended the studio version, and "I'm the Man" brought down the house. After the show was over, I heard all these people around me saying things like "Wow, that rocked!" and "What a great show!" This happens to me at every Joe Jackson concert -- I always overhear people who go out of curiosity and are just knocked out at what Joe delivers.

Even though Joe's concentration seemed a bit off throughout most of the show, it was clear that he and the rest of the guys were having a fantastic time, and that their chops have only improved in the last 25 years. Graham, Gary, and Dave were all amazingly impressive in their playing -- a songwriter would be lucky to hook up with any one of these guys, let alone all three. They really are second to none, even on a bad night.

Peeking at some of the other posts about this night, here's what I think is a pretty accurate set list:

Joe Jackson Band
One More Time
Take It Like A Man
Awkward Age
Look Sharp!
Down To London
On Your Radio
Is She Really Going Out With Him?
Love At First Light

Joe Solo
Real Men
Mayor of Simpleton
Steppin' Out

Joe Jackson Band again
It's Different For Girls
Fairy Dust
Beat Crazy
Sunday Papers
Thugs R Us
Got The Time

Blaze Of Glory
I'm The Man

Join The Boys -- Joe Jackson 3-27-2003 / Paul O'Brian / obrian at / Revised April 2006
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